The Union of Students of Ireland (USI) officially launched a new campaign today that highlights the mental health impact of harmful drinking on young people.
The USI’s new resource on alcohol and mental health, mentaldrinking.ie, will contain information on the risks that alcohol consumption, particularly binge drinking, pose to young people and the impact that this can have on their mental health and wellbeing.
 
As part of its campaign, the USI is encouraging third level students to lead by example and explain the problems that can occur through binge drinking to the next generation - particularly their younger siblings.
 
Alongside the campaign the USI will also be providing alcohol brief intervention training, which will first begin with student union welfare officers before extending to student counsellors and other relevant groups. 
 
The USI also plan to implement new alcohol policies alongside the help and support of various students unions throughout the country.
 
Explaining the overall concept of the campaign, USI Vice-President for Welfare, Greg O’Donoghue said, “the mentaldrinking campaign and resource aims, in the plainest and most accessible language possible, to show students both the immediate impact and long-term effects of alcohol on them in relation to their physical and, particularly, their mental health.”
 
O’Donoghue went on to empasise the severe potential effects that alcohol can have on an individual’s mental health.
 
“We want students to know that the ‘drink to get drunk’ culture that exists in Ireland comes with a serious hangover – one that can affect many areas of their lives and can have a very damaging impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Alcohol is a factor in half of all suicides in Ireland and depression is on the rise in the student community, who have the highest rates of binge drinking in the country,” he said.
 
Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, said it was very encouraging to see students leading by example on a nationwide issue.
 
“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, 18-24 year olds 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,” she added.
 
Ms. Costello also went on to applaud the USI and their work towards tackling this issue of binge drinking.
 
“It’s very encouraging to see that the USI are taking the lead to raise awareness of the strong link between binge drinking and poor mental health amongst their peers, and it’s a significant sign of their commitment to this issue that they are also introducing training and policies to colleges and universities that will help protect students from alcohol harm.”

For more information regarding the issue of binge drinking visit mentaldrinking.ie.

Photo: jenny downing/ Flickr