#AlcoholAndMe: Alcohol and Mental Health

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Alcohol is completely immersed in to British society.

Whether we’re drinking mulled wine in winter or Pimm’s in summer, alcohol accompanies so many aspects of our cultural experiences. It can help us become more relaxed in social situations, helping those of us who are naturally more introvert.

Indeed, according to The Royal College of Psychiatrists, more than 9 out of 10 people in the United Kingdom drink alcohol. That’s a lot of people!

But The Royal College of Psychiatrists also found that about 1 in 3 men and 1 in 6 women may develop some sort of health problem caused by alcohol.

More specifically, according to the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (2014), a quarter of adults with probable alcohol dependence receive treatment and services for a mental or emotional problem.

The survey found that: “There is evidence that heavy drinkers have poorer levels of mental health. Alcohol misuse often co-exists with common mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety.”

“We are heading to a crisis point in mental health.”

With this in mind, the #AlcoholAndMe team reached out to members of the public suffering from poor levels of mental health, in order to hear about about their relationship with alcohol.

When reaching out to the public, students were the focus.

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There are growing concerns regarding the pressure placed upon students and young adults. The Association of Colleges (AoC), a non-profit organisation that represents further education colleges in the UK, found that 85% of colleges saw an increase in the mental health needs of their students.

Consequently, AoC President, Ian Ashman, said: “We are heading to a crisis point in mental health.”

One member of the public that we spoke to about their relationship with alcohol whilst suffering from poor mental health was Katie, a 20-year-old student. She has been fighting anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) since her early teens.

Katie said: “I didn’t enjoy drinking alcohol when I was younger. It actually made me feel more anxious.”

Katie went on to talk about how her relationship with alcohol has changed as she has matured.

She added: “Since going to university I’ve really started to enjoy [drinking]. It relaxes me and makes me more sociable, and doesn’t affect my mental health at all.

“My advice would be for people with mental health problems to be more careful with alcohol and drink in greater moderation than others, just to be on the safe side.”

“Alcohol helps [me cope] up to a point.”

We spoke to Ella, a 21-year-old student. She has recently been suffering with anxiety, specifically health anxiety (hypochondria).

Ella said: “Alcohol helps [me cope] up to a point — it relaxes me — but when I reach a certain level it makes things worse.”

Ella added: “You think of things that you originally had a drink to take your mind off of, and your element of self-control is weakened because of what you’ve drank.

“It can make things worse the next day because you regret letting yourself get to that stage.”

We then spoke to Simon, a 23-year-old postgraduate student. He suffered from anxiety and mild depression at the age of 21.

Simon said: “I was in a position where I was unemployed coming out of university, felt like I had no support network around me, and didn’t want to leave the house.”

Simon added: “I would look to television and video games as escapism, usually whilst having a drink in my hand.

“I wouldn’t drink much, maybe one-to-three spirit measures with mixer. It helped me relax. It didn’t solve any issues that I had, but it was a useful coping mechanism.”

All names have been changed at the request of the interviewees.

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