Written by Andrew Ward

A VITAL support charity wants to highlight the links between alcohol and poor mental health as part of Alcohol Awareness Week.

Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol (DACA) are joining organisations across the country in the hope they can raise awareness about the connection.

One in every four individuals in the United Kingdom currently suffer with mental health issues, with many citing alcohol as a coping mechanism.

But while alcohol helps create relaxation in the short-term, studies have shown that it can have a harmful impact on mental health in the long run.

Mags Mackenzie, chief executive of DACA, said: “Over two thirds of people who attended DACA for one-to-one counselling last year had a diagnosed mental health condition.

“The vast majority of our clients live with poor mental health, but many are debarred from accessing mental health support services until they get their drinking under control.

“But it’s so difficult to disentangle drinking and mental health cause and effect – so it’s such a difficult and frustrating challenge for people.”

As a depressant, alcohol can cause negative emotions. Individuals sometimes use it as a way to “lose themselves”, but this type of excessive drinking can not only have long term effects on mental health, but physical health too.

Ms Mackenzie continued: “If you open a bottle of wine, or a six-pack of beer after a difficult day, that’s an attempt to self-medicate your stress. And one or two drinks may well help you relax and take away some of that stress for a short while.

“But if you’re using this apparent coping mechanism on a regular basis, through time you’ll find that you need to drink more to have the same effect. And this is when people can find themselves in a bit of trouble.”

The added stress of the coronavirus pandemic and months of lockdown has seen an increase in the charities services being required.

DACA’s boss said: “We know 2020 has been a really tough year for so many people, so if you are starting to find yourself having a few extra drinks to cope with the pressure, please get in contact with us sooner rather than later.

“We have a very experienced team who can provide you with advice on managing your drinking and your mental health. Just give us a call.”

For more information and to get in contact with the team at DACA, call 01389 731456 or 0141 952 0881.