This week, Alcohol Change UK are holding Alcohol Awareness Week. This is a week dedicated to raising awareness and campaigning for change. It is a chance for the UK to get thinking about drinking.
The theme for Alcohol Awareness Week 2020 is Alcohol and mental health, focusing on the links between the two and the best ways to look after ourselves and those we care about. This is particularly prevalent this year with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought a lot of change and uncertainty to our lives.
Each year in the UK, around 25% of us experience a mental health problem. Additionally, there are an estimated 586,780 dependent drinkers in England, but only about 18% are receiving treatment. Alcohol is a known factor in more than 60 medical conditions including:
- Breast cancers
- High blood pressure
- Cirrhosis of the liver
Many people remain unaware of the link between drinking and poor mental health, as it is often the first thing we turn to when we are finding it difficult to cope, particularly when we feel stressed or low. Alcohol has been described as ‘the UK’s favourite coping mechanism’, and many of us do drink to try and help manage stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health problems. This is sometimes referred to as ‘self-medicating’ with alcohol. Unfortunately, although alcohol can initially help us feel relaxed, and give us a brief feeling of happiness and euphoria, the effects are short-lived. The long-term negative consequences of drinking heavily over a long period of time, can be quite harmful. Drinking too much alcohol or drinking too often, can mask or enhance underlying mental health issues. This prevents them from being addressed and treated properly.
The impacts of drinking too much alcohol can be felt by those who drink, but also by their family and friends who may require support too. If you are worried about your drinking or someone you know, there is lots of support available through organisations such as Alcohol Change UK and Drinkaware
This week, Alcohol Change UK are calling for change. With improved understanding and better support and treatment for those affected, their hope is that lives can be improved and even saved with appropriate help and support, reaching those in need.