Many addiction services no longer have competencies in-house to deal with co-morbid mental ill-health, and mental health services frequently refuse to work with people who have a co-morbid alcohol use disorder, such that patients wanting help with the depression that they see as causing them to use alcohol, are often told they cannot be helped until they are alcohol-free. People in truly desperate states are bounced between addiction and mental health services, with many often falling through the gaps.
So what can be done?
1. We all need to be more aware of what we drink, and why, and at a population level increase our alcohol health literacy.
2. We need to be aware and challenge the alcohol and advertising industries’ attempts to encourage alcohol as the only narrative in our social world.
3. We need to encourage conversations about alcohol use as we now seem better able to do about mental ill-health.
4. We need health professionals to recognise alcohol as a modifiable risk factor for so many mental (and physical) health disorders and have the competence to manage it.
5. We need mental health services to reclaim alcohol use disorders as primarily a disease of the mind, and genuinely embrace person centred care.
6. We need government to commit to the resources required to redress the balance of 10 years of funding cuts.
This may seem like a lot that needs to be implemented, which it is, but the most effective thing we can all do is make small but sustained changes to our own alcohol awareness and behaviours.
I would be more than happy to discuss this issue with the relevant department, there has to be a structure in place of prevention, and not as is currently happening, only trying to deal with the awful fall out of this ever-rising problem.