It’s been a difficult year for everyone and it’s not set to get any easier. 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.
So this week SMART Wokingham, drug and alcohol support service will be joining 3,000 other community groups across the UK for Alcohol Awareness Week – 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.
SMART Wokingham will be supporting the campaign by making daily posts on their social media accounts. Topics will include current research and findings, thought-provoking reads, delicious mocktail recipes and a fact filled quiz to check if you know how much alcohol is too much! They will also be discussing the relationship between alcohol and mental health as a theme during their weekly virtual meets with Wokingham residents using their service.
Alcohol Awareness Week aims to get people thinking and talking about alcohol, to motivate change at every level – individual, community and national.
Vikki Lake, SMART Wokingham’s Service Manager said: “Alcohol Awareness Week is a great way to get everyone thinking about their drinking! This year will see our efforts focused on raising awareness and sharing information online. Our aim is to reach as many Wokingham residents as we can, so that locals can take a step back and reflect on their alcohol consumption. For those who need additional support, our door is always open.”
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
With drinking among heavier drinkers on the rise, Wokingham is joining this year’s UK-wide Alcohol Awareness Week campaign to raise awareness of the links between alcohol and mental health.
Take part in this year’s Alcohol Awareness Week by visiting the Alcohol Change UK website.
[i] Opinium (2020), commissioned by Alcohol Change UK. Poll into how people in the UK have drunk during COVID-19 lockdown, and what their plans are as it eases.
[ii] Royal College of Psychiatrists (2020). News release: Addiction services not equipped to treat the 8 million people drinking at high risk during pandemic, warns Royal College.
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