Mental Health Awareness Week: mental health and alcohol

Maddy Lawson | May 2022 | 10 minutes

Managing your drinking is a key part of looking after your mental health, so for this year's Mental Health Awareness Week we've brought together stories, tips and information about alcohol and mental health.

Get the facts

Alcohol and mental health factsheet

What effects does drinking really have on your mental health? This factsheet offers the evidence for the links between alcohol and depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Read the factsheet.

Evidence roundup

In this blog, two researchers at the University of Liverpool's addiction research group explain the existing research on the links between mental health and alcohol use, what the current gaps in research are and how we should provide appropriate treatment. Read the blog.

Getting support with your drinking

Wherever you live, there will be a service in your area which supports people with alcohol problems. You can access these services in a few key ways:

  • Your GP is your first port of call for alcohol problems. They will be able to provide confidential advice and refer you for extra support.
  • Check on your local authority website to see how you can access your local provider.
  • There are a number of NHS services directories you can use to find support and treatment services near you:

You can also find support remotely:

  • Drinkline, a free, confidential helpline for people who are concerned about their drinking, or someone else's. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am–8pm, weekends 11am–4pm)
  • If you live in Wales, you can contact the DAN 24/7 alcohol and drug any time of the day or night. Freephone: 0808 808 2234, or text DAN to: 81066.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous, whose helpline is open 24/7 on 0800 9177 650. If you would prefer, you can also email them at help@aamail.org or live chat via their website at www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk.
  • You can join a SMART Recovery meeting online here. SMART holds both face-to-face and online meetings which support people in managing harmful addictive behaviour. The SMART Recovery Programme helps individuals and family members of those who are struggling. They also have women's only meetings and those specifically for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Al-Anon which offers support and understanding to the families and friends of dependent drinkers. You can call their confidential helpline on 0800 0086 811 (open 10am-10pm). There are lots more resources for families and friends here.
  • Nacoa support anyone affected by their parent(s) drinking, including adults. Here are some of the questions that children often ask about alcohol and the effects on them and their family. For more information, visit nacoa.org.uk, call 0800 358 3456 or email helpline@nacoa.org.uk. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Getting support with your mental health

  • CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) support those who feel isolated, anxious, alone or suicidal. You can call the CALM helpline on 0800 58 58 58, available 5pm-midnight. They run a webchat service too from 5pm-midnight.
  • Mind has put together a range of information and advice on coping with the extra stress and anxiety brought on by the coronavirus outbreak and protecting your mental health and well-being. The helpline is available on: 0300 123 3393, weekdays: 9am-6pm.
  • The Samaritans have published a range of resources for those worried about their mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. If you need someone to talk to, you can call for free on 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org, available 24/7.
  • The Mental Health Foundation, the charity behind Mental Health Awareness Week, have a list of resources on their website for people seeking advice and support. They also publish information and research about mental health.
  • The Marmalade Trust, the UK's leading loneliness charity, has lots of information about loneliness, including resources offering advice on talking about loneliness, the physical effects of loneliness, and their three-step approach to tackling loneliness.

Stories

Claire's story

Claire

Claire was in £15k of debt and having suicidal thoughts. She felt like she was living in chaos. Alcohol helped her cope with the difficult times, but she soon realised she had developed a problem with drinking. In the end, a major life change (moving to a different place and starting a new job) was the catalyst for helping her get her life back on track. "I was feeling so low I was having suicidal thoughts. I’ve got the most amazing family and friends a person could wish for and had the best upbringing, yet I didn’t know where to turn and nothing I did was helping." Read Claire's story.

Sonia's story

Sonia

Sonia initially started drinking with friends to socialise. But as time went on, her relationship with alcohol became more sinister. People in her community started noticing her behaviour, and gossip started to spread. Sonia felt so low she thought the world would be a better place without her in it. After a suicide attempt, she vowed she would never touch alcohol again. "Alcohol became an escape from reality for me. Which is quite ironic as I had always been a realist up until that point." Read Sonia's story.

Karl's story

Karl

In this blog, Karl explores masculinity, drinking and mental health - why is it that some men only feel able to share their true feelings over a pint, and is there anything we can do to change that? "If there's one thing men are great at doing, it's hiding emotions, because our emotions are seen by some as an affront to masculinity." Read Karl's story.

Gareth's story

When Gareth moved away from home to pursue a career in broadcasting, his drinking increased. It gave him some relief from his insecurities and poor mental health. But that relief was temporary, and slowly things started to get worse. In the end, his sheer determination to get better, along with a supportive medical team, helped him stop drinking. "When I moved away, the drinking built and built as part of the work culture, helping me hide from my insecurities and poor mental health." Read Gareth's story.

Steve's story

Steve DJ 1

Steve took part in Dry January for both physical and mental health reasons. He found he had become an anxious person, subject to tiredness and depressive episodes. After a month of Dry January, he felt a lot better, and with a calmer outlook on life. "I was conscious of not being able to manage the demands of family and professional life very well. I was not sleeping well, and waking up tired... The noticeable difference now, almost a year later, is that I drink much less, and certainly not every night as I did before. My health and well-being are both better, and it is very rare nowadays for me to 'overdo' it with drink." Read Steve's story.