5th January, 2021 — Mental health

Alcohol, drugs and mental illness

When considering mental health, it’s important we keep in mind the relationship it often shares with alcohol and other drug use.

This is not to say that every person with a mental health condition has an alcohol and other drugs (AOD) issue. Or, that every person using AOD has issues with their mental health.

However, a person taking drugs or alcohol might develop mental health problems, and a person with mental health problems might turn to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism.

What we do know is:

  • At least 55 per cent of people experiencing an alcohol or drug use disorder also have a mental health condition.
  • 60 per cent of people with a mental health disorder are also experiencing alcohol or drug dependence.

A person’s alcohol or other drug dependence can impact their personal and work life and can also turn up at their sporting club.

The end of a relationship or the loss of a job can result in anxiety and depression on top of an existing dependence on alcohol or other drugs.

A person’s physical health can also be affected. For example, alcohol can disrupt sleep, which can increase other symptoms. Nutrition and exercise could also be affected, leading to poorer health.

People with a mental health or substance use disorder are more likely to be a victim of violence, particularly if their mental health condition is severe. They are also more likely to experience homelessness and discrimination.

You can see how the effects can easily pile up.

Who is at risk?

Many people have an increased risk because of genetic, environmental, social or biological factors that are beyond their control.

They may have experienced a severe difficulty or trauma in their life or be facing long-term personal, social or economic problems.

There is no single thing that will guarantee a person does or does not experience an alcohol or other drug dependence as well as a mental health condition. Instead, it’s the result of a blend of highly personal and complex factors and experiences.

COVID-19 a traumatic force of nature

One thing we all now have in common is experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many Australians, the anxiety of increased debt, an uncertain job market, relationship breakdown – plus the grief of those who lost love ones – will remain.

Our collective mental health has suffered.

COVID-19 data collected from organisations like BeyondBlue, Lifeline, Australian Bureau of Statistics and Alcohol and Drug Foundation shows the enormous impact on Australians’ mental health. It also shows an increase in some people’s alcohol use, as well as an increase in some drug use (e.g. cannabis) during this time.

For many of us, the aftermath will still be a struggle – especially financially.

The focus is now on how we’re going to support the people who need help.

Building resilience and understanding

Life is complicated. Prevention is preferable but not always possible.

Good Sports is about building the foundations for mental wellbeing and resilience.

Good Sports clubs don’t turn their backs on people facing mental health or AOD issues. Good Sports is about creating a safe and supportive club environment for everyone. It’s about role modelling the kind of behaviour and attitudes we value.

By making our club communities better informed, we can minimise the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs and help our loved ones continue their journey to recovery.

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Mental health