The Duchess of Cambridge has urged those battling addictions during the pandemic to seek help, as research shows Britons are drinking more during the lockdown.
Kate, 38, has long been a patron of Action on Addiction and caught up with some of the clients and staff in a video call, after the charity released statistics on the rate of drinking during lockdown.
According to the charity, 39% of those polled with a history of addiction have reported a recurrence of their addictive behaviour or have recently relapsed while in recovery.
The statistics from a YouGov poll also showed an increase in addictive behaviour in young adults and children as young as 12, during the COVID-19 crisis.
Some 4% of those questioned have a close relative between the ages of 12 and 25 for whom this is the case, which the charity said would amount to more than two million children and young people on a national scale.
Kate called Clouds House, a rehab centre in Wiltshire, and talked to staff about how they have adapted during the lockdown.
She also spoke to two former residents, Claire and Chris, who are in the centre’s aftercare programme.
Chris said the lockdown had helped him to go back to normal life gradually, and integrate without the usual sources of temptation.
He told the duchess it was a “blessing in disguise” adding: “It was a gentle stepping stone back into reality. It kind of took away all of my temptations, the accessibility, the associations I had with friends.
“There’s always the fear of missing out and that kind of got taken away in a sense, so it was really nice for me, it felt gentle.”
Kate heard how the centre in Wiltshire managed to reconfigure to ensure that the 10 residents could isolate.
And she discussed fears more people will need treatment when lockdown eases further.
Kate said: “The worrying thing is, it is all those people who aren’t necessarily reaching out who are struggling, who perhaps don’t feel they can reach out.
“Or the fact that maybe they haven’t realised that addictive behaviours have sort of established, particularly if it’s the first time – and it’s those people who aren’t necessarily being vocal about it.
“It’s making sure that they know they can reach out and that you are there to help and support them in this very difficult time.”
Kate was given a briefing on the charity’s new research and spoke to chief executive Graham Beech, clinical lead Dr Simone Yule and treatment manager Anya Sparks about whether they had seen a difference in the number of people coming to them for help.
Dr Yule said: “We are seeing more alcohol issues and in the community.
“I think definitely we know alcohol sales have gone up exponentially, so the rise in people that are now starting to seek treatment with lockdown gradually lifting, I think that is going to have a big impact.”
Beech told her their website is busier than ever, and they are trying to connect people digitally.
He added: “We have done some polling and we have discovered that people are struggling during lockdown.
“More people are drinking and gambling but also we are concerned about the number of people who are struggling to maintain their recovery and are getting into relapse.
“We are particularly concerned about families and young people and the impact that lockdown and addiction is having.”
Kate had a virtual tour of facilities and waved to staff who socially distanced outside to greet her.
She spoke to Lucy, whose mother was previously a resident before the family embarked on a series of courses together to help her beat her addictions.
Lucy told Kate: “We do it every few months or whenever mum feels she needs it, or whenever we feel we need it, and it’s been game changing for our family – really beneficial to be in a room and talk so openly as we have done.”
Praising Clouds House, Kate said: “For someone who is suffering to take that one individual and ask them to go through it themselves is a real challenge.
“But if you can pull in family members or those around them to try and help them through, it is really extraordinary and actually I’ve heard in the past everyone learns a huge amount from it as well, so it’s really fantastic.”
Kate also promised to visit herself when the lockdown is over and coronavirus is under control.
She said: “They are unprecedented times, but I’m sure you are doing an amazing job and well done for keeping things going and ticking over as normal.”