Speaking up about alcohol and mental health

This year’s Alcohol Awareness Week (16-22 November) focuses on alcohol and mental health and it’s a chance for us to remind people that they may be drinking too much because of other problems and that support is available – not just for alcohol but also for mental health, wellbeing or even debt.

This has been a difficult year for everyone. Covid-19 has dramatically changed the way we live. People have lost jobs, experienced financial hardship, faced isolation, and seen changes to routine that bring stress, anxiety and worry. Making it all too easy for our drinking to creep up.

A survey by Alcohol Change UK in July showed that:

  • more than a quarter of people (28%) thought they drank more alcohol during the first lockdown
  • two thirds (66%) expected to continue that drinking as lockdown eased over the summer, with some (17%) even expecting to drink more
  • one in five (19%) said they drank as a way to handle stress or anxiety during lockdown
  • of those who drank more heavily during lockdown, 40% drank as a response to stress or anxiety.

This is a worrying trend that is growing. The Royal College of Psychiatrists estimated that more than 8.4 million people in England were drinking at higher-risk levels in June, up from 4.8 million in February 2020.

On top of that, drinking alcohol can weaken your immune system and put you at greater risk from Covid-19.

Taking steps to manage our drinking and look after our physical and mental health has never been more important.

Chair of the Health & Wellbeing Board, Councillor Sue Shanks said:

“The pandemic has been difficult and it’s important to find ways to deal with stress, especially when we can’t meet with friends and family.

“If you feel you are drinking too much and you want to change that, please do ask for help. It’s not an easy thing to do and there is a lot of support and advice available in Brighton & Hove.”

Get to the bottom of the problem

Drinking alcohol to deal with difficult feelings is not unusual, but it can make matters worse. It’s all too easy to reach for a glass when we’re feeling stressed, but there are better ways to unwind. Why not go for a walk, ring a friend, read a book, try a new recipe, have a bath, or get some exercise.

There’s lots of advice out there but you have to find something that’s right for you.

Dr Richard Piper, Chief Executive of Alcohol Change UK, said:

“Many of us are under an unbelievable amount of stress due to the coronavirus pandemic. We’re seeing that those of us who are drinking more heavily are at real risk of worsening our mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, along with many other health conditions, as we turn to alcohol to cope.

“The good news is that being in control of our drinking can improve our mental health, and there are plenty of techniques out there for taking control if your drinking has got a bit out of hand.”

Find help to manage your own drinking

It’s not just heavy drinkers who might want to cut back. Those of us who drink at low, or moderate levels can all benefit from changing our drinking habits.

Get local support to reduce or stop your drinking

Asking for help can seem difficult but you don’t have to struggle alone. Support is available for anyone – you don’t have to be a heavy drinker.

  • 18 & over: Our Healthy Lifestyles team offer free and confidential support for any adults who want to drink less. Health trainers can help you to make realistic and manageable lifestyle changes through one-to-one sessions (currently online or over the phone). Call 01273 294 589
  • Under 18s: RU-OK? offer free, confidential advice and support for help for children or young people whose lives are affected by alcohol or other substance misuse in Brighton & Hove. Call 01273 29 39 66.
  • Families: Back on Track can help families where a parent is drinking too much to get the help they need.

Find other support in Brighton & Hove for anyone affected by alcohol misuse.

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