How to help a friend with depression when they're drinking booze

Everybody knows alcohol is a depressant (if you didn’t, you do now), but alcohol can also be a really rather enjoyable way to distract yourself from life’s miseries and make you think that karaoke and texting an old hookup are both brilliant ideas.

The ‘booze blues’ are commonplace among most people who drink.

For the lucky few that haven’t experienced them yet (I guess you’re under 28?), the booze blues involve not just feeling hungover following your sesh, but also a feeling of deep, deep sadness, existential dread and a profound knowledge that your family is ashamed of you.

It’s absolutely miserable, yet the joyous effects of drinking (at the time of drinking) are seemingly too good to let that bother us, so off we go to the pub again.

Now, when the booze blues extend into every waking sober moment of your life, drinking becomes a little trickier.

When you have depression or care about someone who has depression it can be a bloody minefield; you know they want to go to the pub, but you know they’ll feel awful afterwards… but they’re old enough to make their own decisions… but you want to look out for them… oops here come six tequilas to top off the warm can of Desperados you drank on the bus, nevermind.

Anyone with a qualification in psychology or medicine will (quite rightly) advise anyone struggling with mental health to keep away from the sauce.

I wang on about mental health all the time and am fully aware that I shouldn’t really be drinking if I want to get better… but here I am writing this on the Eurostar with a plastic cup of red wine.

Philip Karahassan (who’s a qualified psychotherapist with expertise in drugs and alcohol, so obviously knows some stuff) has some more realistic points of view if you’re depressed, or are trying to do your best for a depressed pal: ‘Alcohol works to distract us from our feelings – but it just delays them until the next day.

‘Add to that the emotional state we feel when hungover, and it makes it all the more important to make sure that there is both an emotional and physical safety net around our depressed friend.

‘On that note, make sure you check in the next day to see how your friend feels, as well as checking in over the coming week to see how they are getting on.’

I fully support this – yes, it’s fairly normal to text your drinking buddy the next day to check in on their hangover levels and check you’re not the only one who has the cold sweats and a pizza on the way, but if your mate is struggling then I’d say it’s even more important.

When I’m in alcohol-induced turmoil and am feeling incredibly dark, a message from a friend who cares really can be a little light.

George, 25, has found that monitoring how his alcohol consumption impacts his mood has really helped him get to know his limits.

‘Alcohol definitely has short-term benefits for mood-enhancement but these typically wear off after the first four or five drinks, for me at least,’ he tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Once the number of drinks consumed exceeds this number, the negatives greatly outweigh the positives but as most people know, it’s tough to stop.

‘For me personally, the next-day hangover doesn’t give me huge lows so much as my mood gradually lowers as does my productivity and desire to be social.

‘I think the drawbacks of getting hammered persist much longer than a day or two and likely go unnoticed.’

Drinking and being in the pub is a huge part of British social culture, and I agree it can be really difficult to ask for a soft drink instead of the G&T you think you want.

If you’re friends with someone struggling, for the love of Rihanna please don’t fire questions at them if they don’t want to drink, or call them a loser or ask when they’re going to be fun again.

‘The only logical step for someone who feels pressured to drink by friends is to tell them you want to cut down,’ says George. ‘The open dialogue is important, and over the last few years I’ve noticed a huge surge in people generally talking about mental illness – the continuation of these conversations is vital.

‘Alcohol consumption is one of many factors that should be considered when treating depression; exercise, levels of isolation, work-life balance, and medication are just a couple of the things that should also be considered. Booze isn’t the devil in moderation.’

Ultimately, we are all in control of our own actions. Even if it feels like we’re spiralling all the damn time, the only person who can really change a depressed person is that depressed person, so it’s up to (the Collective Depressed) Us to take charge of how much alcohol we can or can’t handle, and know our limits.

If your friends are going to judge or question someone for why they’re not drinking alcohol, then they’re not really your good friends, are they.

Preaching to a depressed mate that alcohol is going to make things worse is NOT going to help, but checking in with them really will.

Pretending their depression doesn’t exist also won’t ever help, but what will is acknowledging that their brain’s on fire and alcohol is very f***ing flammable.

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, you can find a qualified local counsellor in your area with Counselling Directory . Mental health charity Mind also offer counselling services, and you can call The Samaritans on 116123 (UK and ROI). The NHS even have a little quiz you can take. If you can, visit your GP for further advice.

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