By Marcela Araneda
Psychologists are calling on Australians to seek help for their mental health and well-being, as the worrying trend of alcohol consumption increases suggests that many are struggling with the current isolation and fear of the COVID-19 crisis.
The recent YouGov Galaxy survey Many Australians turn to alcohol to deal with COVID-19 stress. They show that 70% of people drink more than normal and a third every day. Psychologists have also observed that more patients have turned to tobacco use, online gambling, cannabis use and prescription drug abuse in the past month.
“Personal relationships come under pressure when you drink a lot, add to the stress associated with COVID-19, and you have a recipe for disaster. There is an increased risk of partnership violence, sexual violence, youth violence, abuse of the elderly and violence against children, and an increased number of accidents.
"People aI use different ways to deal with this incredibly difficult time. We want to remind individuals and our communities that some of these methods can do harm in the short and long term and that help is available to help them stay sane, ”said Tegan Carrison, Executive Director of the Australian Association of Psychologists (AAPi)) .
Amanda Curran, Vice President of AAPi and a registered psychologist, explains: “People are drinking more alcohol now because of many factors, including: B. Lack of stimulation that we would normally receive outside of our homes, increased stress, especially with regard to finances and possible illnesses. Job loss. "
“We see that individuals who deal with work stress for those who work at home handle the work and childcare requirements as well as the home school requirements. In addition, the separation of social support systems such as friends, neighbors, therapists, the church and family can make a significant contribution to psychological stress. "
“For those in recovery, lack of access to support services is an important concern. Those who have traditionally been involved in support groups such as AA or NA may not have computer access to attend online meetings and are particularly at risk here. "
Many studies show that adults should drink less than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than four standard drinks in a day to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related illnesses or injuries. There is also a recommendation for two non-alcoholic days a week to give the body time to detoxify itself from alcohol and to give vital organs a break. The less you drink, the lower the risk of alcohol-related harm, and for some people, the safest option is not to drink at all.
While the health effects of alcohol consumption are diverse, psychologists are most concerned about how it affects our mental health.
“Alcohol changes your thoughts, decisions, judgment, and behavior. While alcohol can make you feel better and offer some relaxation at the moment, it is short-lived and alcohol can increase your stress levels very well and negatively affect your sanity if you drink regularly, ”said Ms. Curran .
Studies have shown that alcohol can increase the extent of depression and the risk of anxiety disorders, and women in particular are more than twice as likely to experience anxiety disorders. There is also an increase in suicide among people who drink at higher concentrations, and this is more significant among people who drink under the age of 18.
The influence of alcohol on the immune system also has a significant impact on the body's ability to fight off infections that are important due to the risk of respiratory problems and the nature of COVID-19 disease.
Ms. Curran encourages those who are unable to control their alcohol consumption to stay connected to their support network.
“Just because you can't see someone physically doesn't mean you can't connect using other methods. Writing letters, emails, phone calls, and video calls can help reduce the depression associated with isolation. You can talk to a psychologist about telemedicine who can help you deal positively and even be successful. "
She also recommends staying physically active and following the daily routines you would have had before the pandemic, such as: B. getting dressed for your day and maintaining the structure of the day. Those who find an increased level of stress can also better deal with relaxation methods or take up relaxing hobbies such as gardening or yoga.
There are online interventions as well as telephone hotlines that you can call to discuss concerns. A good source of information is the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS), which has a call center and text-based service in every state.
You can find support such as finding a psychologist in your area or providing telemedicine services at: https://aapi.org.au/find-a-psychologist
Further information on current guidelines can be found at: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/health-advice/alcohol.
You can use this questionnaire to determine whether someone is at higher risk of alcohol-related harm: https://www.mhc.wa.gov.au/media/2607/alcohol-audit-screening-tool-mk4.pdf.