Alcohol and mental health

Alcohol has a huge impact on our mental health and it’s now believed that young people develop a lot of their attitudes towards alcohol from what they observe at home.

Pints of beer on a table, with a man gesticulating in the background.Relaxing but depressing

Research shows alcohol is a depressant. It initially makes us feel more relaxed, but the next day you can feel worse then you did before. This can intensify depression and feed negative ways of thinking.

For anyone suffering from a mental health problem, increasing the risk of feeling unhappy can be dangerous, whether or not they’re on medication.

Socialising is important

Friendships are an important part of minding our mental health. Going out can be a welcome release and as socialising often revolves around drinking it can be hard to think about alternative ways to let off steam.

Talk to your son or daughter about what’s going on socially for them. There can be a lot of pressure on young people to drink when they go out.

Make them aware that they don’t have to skip nights out if they don’t want to drink. It’s important for them to know their own pace and limit, and to try and vary what you do to relax.

Drinking when taking medication

Some people choose to take medication such anti-depressants as part of their treatment. Taking it is extremely personal and is specific to each person’s individual needs. For some people it’s not necessary, but for others it can be hugely beneficial.

Whether or not drinking will have an adverse affect if you’re on medication will largely depend on what you’re taking. Sometimes it’s fine as long as you’re taking your medication properly and are minding how much you drink, but mixing some medicine with alcohol can be quite dangerous.

The only way to be sure it’s OK and that alcohol won’t interact with your medication is to confirm it with your doctor.

Hard to resist

It can be hard then to resist having a drink, especially if all your friends are and they just want you to join in. But if you’ve made positive steps towards managing your mental health why would you want to undo all that work?

Managing peer pressure to drink isn’t necessarily easy and it affects people in all age groups, but it’s a skill that can be learned. What it should all boil down to really is you knowing how much you want to drink. Once you know this it can be easier to make decisions that suit you and your health.

 

 

Overcoming loneliness

Friends, fun and going out. It’s all part of being young and growing up. It’s easy to assume that feeling lonely isn’t something most young people have to worry about.

blue and green abstractSometimes, for young people it can look like everyone else has loads of friends and are out all the time, posting pictures of the fun they’re having, while they’re at home, hanging out with your dog.

Being lonely and isolated are feelings we can all experience at some stage in our lives.

Everything in moderation

Learning to take time out alone can be healthy but hard for some young people to do. We all need space to reflect every now and then, but like anything, moderation is key.

Cutting ourselves off from social situations for long periods of time makes it increasingly difficult to get back out there. We are social creatures after all.

It’s not easy though and meeting new people can make you feel very vulnerable, but staying connected is important for our sense of well-being.

Excuses don’t help

Too much time out when we’re feeling down or alone can make it seem easy to find excuses not to see people. However, spending long periods on your own can leave you feeling even more alone and anxious.

Sharing an issue that’s been bothering you with someone can help give some perspective, or just let you blow off a bit of steam.

Overwhelming

Loneliness can be an overwhelming emotion. Feeling like you can’t face the world can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices that end up leaving you feeling more depressed.

Not getting outside to exercise or falling into unhealthy eating patterns can lower your self-esteem and make you feel less like socialising.

Staying active

If big social situations seem too daunting, or are not your thing, arrange to see a close friend or family member. Going to the cinema, or for a walk or coffee are ways to stay connected.

Do remember that everyone feels alone at some point in their life, regardless of how many friends or family members they have. Even though it can seem easier for others, we all need to work at staying active and social.

Sexual health: not a hot topic but an important one

Sailor's cap and red boa on the arm of a chairThe Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have just launched a nationwide Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance (SHAG) campaign. With all the talk around the release of Matthew McConaughey’s new film, the timing couldn’t be more apt.

Dallas Buyers Club

Based on a true story, Dallas Buyers Club follows the exploits of a man in 1980s Texas who contracted AIDS. At first he’s in disbelief that he, a heterosexual man, has the ‘gay’ disease as it was commonly known.

Once over his shock, he finds ways to import needed medication, that wasn’t available in America. He started turning a profit by selling it to others with the virus, hence the title of the film.

Forgotten but not gone

The events of the film, indeed the outbreak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, seem like ancient history. As of yet though, there’s no cure for AIDS, so we should be no less cautious.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able access them, there are drugs available to help manage the condition and if you’re lucky, prolong your life. But this should never be seen as a solution for risky behaviour.

Life-changing but not newsworthy

The availability of medicine and some reduction in stigma around people who contract STIs and STDs means the topic is less newsworthy. But it’s important to note the relevance of sexual health today.

Annual SHAG campaign

The campaign focuses on all aspects of sex including:

Protect yourself

The greatest form of protection is to educate yourself. Make sure you’re aware of safe sexual practices and how to manage your sexual health, you’re a lot less likely to end up with regrets.

The Dallas Buyers Club happened nearly thirty years ago, but we shouldn’t forget what happened in that era. Whatever your sexual orientation it’s important to to have fun, though not at any expense.