Addressing stigma and discrimination around AOD issues

Objective 8.2:

Build a region-wide commitment to challenging stigmatising and discriminatory practices

Action 8.2.3:

Build commitment of healthcare organisations and practitioners to delivery of a high standard of care for people using alcohol and other drugs and to addressing the stigma attached to people impacted by problematic use of alcohol and other drugs

The Queensland Injectors Health Network (QuIHN) was funded by the Queensland Mental Health Commission (QMHC) to conduct “Putting Together the Puzzle – Stigma, Discrimination and Injecting Drug Use” training, a training workshop for health professionals which aims to support improved health outcomes for people who inject drugs, and increase the quality of engagement between people and health care service providers.

Stigmatising and discriminatory attitudes of service providers may lead to a range of negative impacts including low uptake of medical assistance for future/ongoing treatment of health conditions arising from substance use, reluctance to source therapeutic care and treatment, and poor motivation to disclose their substance use.

The training was in response to a recommendation within the QMHC’s options for reform paper Changing attitudes, changing lives: Options to reduce stigma and discrimination for people experiencing problematic alcohol and other drug use report that called for workforce capacity-building to recognise and reduce stigma and discrimination by providing ongoing training and professional development opportunities.

Participants were provided with insights and interactive discussions around attitudes and behaviours toward people who inject drugs, whilst learning about the detrimental impact of stigmatising behaviours in a health service setting and how this contributes to diminished health outcomes for this highly marginalised group.

Key achievements

Participants attending the Brisbane workshop represented training organisations, health services, youth, and family and carer agencies. Central to the efficacy of the sessions was the inclusion of trained peer educators – the lived experience aspects were rated highly in evaluation. Upskilling the lived experience workforce with initial training, familiarising with workshop content,  acquiring facilitation skills and how to use personal stories to best effect, provided the peer co-facilitators with a sound basis for their involvement. Support leading up to the workshops and debriefing post workshops was provided.

What’s next?

The development of anti-stigma awareness training in collaboration with alcohol and other drugs subject matter experts is factored in to our Implementation Plan for AOD. Training content is already being adapted for use in the justice sector, and the QMHC is liaising with the Queensland Police Service regarding involvement in the training.

QNADA has responded by producing a Position Paper on ‘Stigma and Discrimination’ [1], and others regarding ‘Systemic Responses’ (examining links between problematic substance use and contact with the criminal justice and child safety systems) and ‘Decriminalisation’.


[1] QNADA position papers

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