Event: Launch of National Student Alcohol Awareness Roadshow ‘Mental Drinking’
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) will today [on Monday] launch a new phase of its alcohol awareness campaign, ‘mentaldrinking.ie’.
The information initiative, in conjunction with Alcohol Action Ireland, which is funded by the Health Service Executive, aims to explain clearly the link between binge drinking and mental ill-health, and to encourage students, particularly those who may be older brothers and sisters, to set a good role model for the younger generations coming up behind them.
The ‘Mental Drinking’ Roadshow will travel to colleges throughout Ireland this week with merchandise and information packs for students, starting in University College Cork on Monday.
The USI broke its links with the alcohol industry last year and Greg O’Donoghue, USI Vice President for Welfare, said that this independence has been vital for a genuine and credible alcohol awareness campaign among students.
“We present no-holds-barred information, based on the best research, to students, so they can protect themselves from the industry’s marketing hype and unpick the conflicting messages which float around about alcohol,” said Mr O’Donoghue.
“We make it clear in our campaign that there can be a damaging impact for both the short and long-term mental health of young people when they binge drink and that drinking to excess on a regular basis can ultimately harm the development and potential of a young person, in terms of their education and many other important aspects of their life. It’s simply not worth it.
“From a mental health perspective, it’s also important that students are aware that of the many suicides which traumatise and devastate the student community each year, a huge number of them have a link to alcohol,” said Mr O’Donoghue.
“Despite the huge concerns surrounding alcohol’s impact on the mental health of young people, it’s clear that they remain a key target of alcohol marketing and advertising and that cheap alcohol is being promoted relentlessly at students. That is why we would like to see the Government take decisive action as part of the Public Health Alcohol Bill and regulate to ensure that students and younger generations are adequately protected from alcohol harm.”
Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, said it was very encouraging to see students leading by example on what is a serious problem for all age groups and sectors of Irish society.
“When it comes to drinking, young people are, in many ways, a product of their environment, and we have created an environment for them that is saturated with alcohol – it is cheap, widely available and they are also exposed to a huge amount of alcohol marketing and advertising, which is such a powerful influence on their drinking behaviour,” said Ms Costello.
“However, our young people are also acutely aware of the impact of anxiety, depression and self-harm on their contemporaries and increasingly recognise binge drinking as a major contributing factor to poor mental health. It’s very encouraging to see the USI are taking the lead in terms of the strong link between binge drinking and poor mental health amongst their peers and it’s a significant sign of its long-term commitment to this issue that they are also introducing training and policies to colleges and universities that will help protect students from alcohol harm.”
• Children and young people are particularly vulnerable to alcohol-related harms and risks, as their bodies and brains are still developing. Far from being a rite of passage, drinking alcohol may well serve to delay the development of vital coping, personal and social skills; project young people into risky situations and lay the ground-work for future physical and mental health difficulties. For further information see mentaldrinking.ie