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Understanding addiction and rethinking blame

There are children across the country who blame themselves for their parent's drinking and drug abuse. Some start giving up on themselves. We work to change that outlook. We help them understand addiction and realise it's not their fault. Our substance misuse service in Essex, CHHAT, empowers young people to open up about things at home and focus more on themselves.


young person at CHHAT quote

I feel less responsible, more like a child

what is hidden harm

boy holding skateboard behind head looking into distance

Hidden harm

Let's get the jargon out the way. When talking about parental addiction and how it affects young people, you might hear the term 'hidden harm'. What does it mean?

Children living with parents who drink excessively or take drugs often have to look after mum or dad. This caring role means they are at risk of abuse and neglect. This is known as hidden harm.

Those affected by hidden harm often feel depressed, alone, low on confidence. They keep what happens at home to themselves. It takes its toll on young people's mental health. This is where CHHAT comes in.

CHHAT facts and figures


young people were helped by CHHAT


said their mental health improved

Starting with self-care

Sometimes all a young person needs is a space to share their thoughts and be heard. Through working one on one or in groups, CHHAT gets young people thinking about themselves. We talk, we listen, we share self-care techniques so they can take charge of their well-being and get into positive routines. 

Many told us that they felt more confident and positive about future goals. Their self-esteem, engagement at school, and ability to open up to people all improved. 

two young people with backpacks walking together out of building smiling

I could express myself and just be me I could expressmyself andjust be me

– Young person from CHHAT

CHHAT working with families

Bringing families closer

Jessica came to us at a time when she blamed herself for her parent's substance use. She would self-harm and refuse to eat or drink. 

Since working with CHHAT, she has opened up about her situation. She's learnt about addiction and why her parents use. She understands now that it's out of her control. It's not her fault.  

Three months after leaving the project, Jessica has made new friends at school and openly talks about how she’s feeling with friends and family.

side of face of young girl wearing sports kit looking strong

jessica's story

I’m a lot more confident about myself

We’ve also been able to help Jessica’s younger sibling to try and break the cycle of self-blame. The whole family now attend another of our services which brings families together to do physical activities. They all feel a little bit closer to each other.

Breaking the cycle of blame

For many of the children we see, there is no other support like ours. We are able to build strong relationships over time. We work closely with schools and families. We allow young people to open up when they feel ready.

Children who have been part of the project are better able understand their situation. Better able to look after themselves. More in control of their future. And they stay strong even after leaving CHHAT.

I feel more like a teenager, more like I can express myself

Find out more about our substance use work or read the full evaluation of CHHAT.