In this alcohol issues newsletter, we explore the growing awareness around the world of alcohol as a risk factor that undermines mental health. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its largest review ever of the state of mental health in the world. The report highlights alcohol and other drug use as a risk factor for mental ill-health and as one of the risk factors that perpetuates the vicious cycle of mental ill-health and poverty.
In this mental health review and other reports, WHO has highlighted the importance of integrating mental health including addressing alcohol into overall healthcare to provide comprehensive healthcare services to people. For example, UNAIDS and the WHO released guidance emphasizing the importance of integrating HIV and mental health services and other interventions, including addressing alcohol, for people living with HIV and other vulnerable populations.
Many countries around the world are facing rising mental health problems, including alcohol use problems. This trend has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, mental health and alcohol support services are failing to meet the rising demand due to a lack of services, funding, and COVID-19 constraints. Low-income and lower-middle-income countries are suffering the hardest impact.
Cuts to mental health services, such as seen in the United Kingdom (UK), are putting children at risk. With rising alcohol use among heavy users due to the pandemic, cuts to mental health and addiction services mean many are not receiving the care they need. An often overlooked result is the harm caused to children who live in households with alcohol problems. Children of households with alcohol problems (CoHAPs) are forced to deal with parents’ or adults’ alcohol and other substance use problems all on their own.
One silver lining is emerging online-based sobriety support groups and communities. Different from the conventional Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) these new programs are giving people more diverse ways to quit or reduce alcohol use, recover from alcohol problems, and stay alcohol-free.