Dr Helen Gleeson

Dr Helen Gleeson has worked as a research assistant at Middlesex University in the Department of Mental Health and Social Work since 2016.  Helen received her PhD from NUI Galway, Ireland, in Child and Youth Studies (Psychology) where her thesis focused on understanding the meanings of relationships between young people and the police.   Since then she has worked on a range of projects spanning the life course in mental health, family relationships, substance misuse and youth justice from a human rights and/or public policy perspective. Currently her two main projects include a study on the pathways of Polish migrants through alcohol misuse treatment in London (funded by ALRUK) and the experiences of young people of substance misuse services within the criminal justice system (EPPIC project; funded by EU).

Email: h.gleeson@mdx.ac.uk  Twitter: @helgleeson

Exploring pathways through and beyond alcohol treatment among Polish women and men in a London borough

Aims: Our aims were to explore the experiences of Polish women and men in a community based specialist alcohol treatment centre in London and to understand their pathways into, through and beyond services with a view to understanding ways to better engage and maintain contact with these service users.

Methods: Three interviews with Polish alcohol services professionals were conducted to establish a general understanding of services offered.   Fifteen semi-structured interviews with Polish individuals, who had experience of problematic alcohol use and treatment services in London. All participants had been living in the UK for on average 10 years.  Data were analysed thematically with a view to understanding experiences, challenges and facilitators to successful treatment outcomes as defined by the service user.

Results: Different pathways for women and men stemmed from Polish culture and views about the acceptability of drinking in women and men which impacted on help seeking. Women experienced complex issues including, hidden long-term drinking, child services interventions and domestic violence and may avoid seeking treatment due to feelings of shame associated with their drinking. For men, seeking help to stop drinking was seen as socially acceptable and in some cases, behaviour to be proud of.

Conclusions: A number of factors were reported to facilitate engagement with treatment services including the availability of a Polish speaking key worker and advocacy for housing, healthcare and benefits.  Identifying women with problematic alcohol use is a challenge and there is a need for different means of engagement with alcohol services.


Dr Rachel Herring, Senior Research Fellow, School of Health and Education, Middlesex University, London

Mariana Bayley, Researcher, School of Health and Education, Middlesex University, London

Conflicts of interest:

no conflict of interest

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