Everyone is encouraged to think and talk openly about alcohol, how it effects their lives and its link to mental health during this Alcohol Awareness Week (16-22 November).
Somerset County Council wants to encourage everyone to talk about the issues around alcohol and its effects on their mental health – now and during Alcohol Awareness Week – and to take action to change their drinking behaviour for the better.
It has been an anxious and uncertain year and alcohol has been described as ‘the UK’s favourite coping mechanism’. Many drink to help manage stress, anxiety and depression.
A poll released earlier this year from Alcohol Change UK showed one in five of those surveyed said they had drunk alcohol to handle stress or anxiety during lockdown.
Of those who drank more heavily during lockdown (nine plus units on each drinking day), 40% had drunk as a response to stress or anxiety. As lockdown eased over the summer, two in three (66%) expected to continue drinking as they had been during lockdown (49%), or even drink more (17%).
Around 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year and drinking too much is linked to increasing the risk. Many of us are unaware of the link between alcohol and poor mental health. Yet drinking too much or too often can mask or enhance underlying mental health problems – such as anxiety and depression – and prevent them from being properly addressed.
Cllr Clare Paul, Somerset County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for health and wellbeing, said: “Isolation during lockdown makes it very easy for us all to overindulge but drinking too much alcohol can cause physical and mental health issues. Some people might not even realise that their drinking has become a problem.
“I would urge everyone to consider how much alcohol they drink in any given week. If you are concerned about the volume that you are consuming, then this would be a good time to talk to someone, get some help and make changes that will benefit your health and wellbeing.”
There are many alternative ways to cope during these challenging times. For example, the 5-Ways to Wellbeing.
Scientific studies have shown aiming to follow the 5 steps can improve your mental health and wellbeing. These are
- Connect with others
- Be Active
- Keep learning
- Help others
- Taking notice
Mental health charity Mind, www.mind.org.uk offers further information and support.
Somerset Drug and Alcohol Service (SDAS), delivered by Turning Point, is a free and confidential service supporting anyone affected by alcohol and other drugs. Throughout the pandemic they have continued to support people across Somerset by offering a range of remote support, by telephone, online video groups, or online sessions, whilst offering services in person where there is the need.
‘My Turning Point’, their online support tool, can be accessed via a smartphone, tablet or computer and is available any time of the day. It offers a range of sessions around alcohol and other drugs, emotional health and general wellbeing.
Richard, a former service user who now volunteers as a Peer Mentor at SDAS, said: “Being introduced to Turning Point and SDAS has changed my life over the past two and half years. I’ve gone from being a really withdrawn alcoholic, who had practically no communications skills, and often felt very lonely, to how I now feel as someone with so much more confidence in my own abilities.
“I decided to go on the Peer Mentor training that was on offer and it has been fantastic because I can now use my personal experiences to help others who may be struggling through similar situations. Being able to do this and give back to all of the amazing people who’ve helped and supported me is really rewarding.”
If you are concerned about your drinking and want to make changes, you can speak to your GP or contact SDAS directly. Phone 0300 303 8788 or click online at www.turning-point.co.uk/sdas