Alcohol Awareness Week is an ideal opportunityto get us thinking about our drinking and how too much alcohol can affect our mental health.
I am not here to preach about ‘anti-alcohol’ but instead I feel it is important that we all take a pause for thought to consider our drinking habits and the effect it can have on our own mental health and our loved ones. We don’t have to believe that our community has extraordinary alcohol problems to think it would be worth us all taking the time to consider our drinking.
Alcohol forms a part of many of our lives and we all notice its effects – whether this be from our own drinking or from someone else’s.
As part of the campaign week, Alcohol Change UK have released some alarming statistics that I think are worth sharing:
10.4million adults are estimated to drink at harmful levels
200,000 children are expected to be living with an alcohol-dependent parent or carer
A recent survey by Alcohol Change UK found that more than a quarter (28%) of people who have ever drunk alcohol think they have been drinking more during lockdown
One in five of those surveyed (19%) said they had drunk alcohol to handle stress or anxiety during lockdown. Of those who drank more heavily during lockdown (nine plus units each day), 40% had drunk as a response to stress or anxiety.
There is no denying that this year has brought extraordinary change, uncertainty and hardship to many of our local communities. Yet, it also offers us a chance to think about the ways in which we may sometimes use alcohol to cope when we are feeling low, anxious, stressed or worried. It also offers opportunities to highlight some of the more serious mental health problems that can go hand-in-hand with very heavy drinking.
Around 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year and drinking too much or too often can increase our risk. But many of us are unaware of the link between alcohol and poor mental health. Regular drinking can mask underlying mental health problems – such as anxiety or depression – and prevent them from being properly addressed, or even worsen them.
Within my office and at Wiltshire Police, we are committed to ensuring that we continue talking about mental health with our own staff and the public. Wiltshire Police is one of the few forces in the country to have its own dedicated Mental Health Nurse to support staff and officers with the stresses and strains of modern-day work and life.
Usually within 48 hours, a member of the Occupational Health Team will arrange to meet the person face to face to discuss what is on offer to help them get back to work, remain in work and manage their mental health so they can keep working.
Taking that first step of recognising the problem and asking for help is the hardest but also the most important.