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    Speaking up about alcohol and mental health


    Support is available for anyone finding themselves turning to alcohol to cope with the stress and pressures of lockdown.
     
    NHS Tameside and Glossop Clinical Commissioning Group and Tameside Council is joining 3,000 other community groups across the UK for Alcohol Awareness Week (16-22 November) – led by Alcohol Change UK – to raise awareness of the link between alcohol and mental health, to speak out about the issues and the stigma surrounding them, and encourage anyone who is struggling to seek the support they deserve.
     
    Alcohol Awareness Week aims to get people thinking and talking about alcohol, to motivate change at every level – individual, community and national.
     
    A poll[i] released earlier this year from Alcohol Change UK showed that more than a quarter (28%) of people who have ever drunk alcohol think they have been drinking more during lockdown. And 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%).
     
    What’s more one in five (19%) of those surveyed said they had drunk alcohol as a way 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.
     
    This is a worrying trend that is growing. The Royal College of Psychiatrists[ii] estimates that in June, more than 8.4 million people in England were drinking at higher-risk levels, up from 4.8 million in February 2020.
     
    Tameside Council’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Population Health, Councillor Eleanor Wills, said: “Reaching for an alcoholic drink isn’t the answer to relieving a stressful day or situation.  While the effects of alcohol can sometimes have a short term positive impact on our mood, in the long term it can cause problems for mental health and can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, and make stress harder to deal with.”
     
    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, including our free Try Dry app.”
     
    Alcohol Awareness Week provides an important opportunity for us all to:
     
    • talk about the issues around alcohol and mental health, helping us make more informed choices about our drinking
    • tackle the stigma associated with drinking, which can be significantly worse for those struggling with mental health problems as well as drinking problems
    • call for action to help those most in need, including the 200,000 children living with an alcohol-dependent parent or carer
    • help those struggling to seek support   
     
    Take part in this year’s Alcohol Awareness Week by visiting the Alcohol Change UK website.