“They felt they had a purpose”- Salford University study benefits volunteers’ mental health

Volunteers say working with people to get their alcohol intake under control has boosted their own mental health.

Communities in Charge of Alcohol is a study comparing alcohol harm before and after the training of Alcohol Health Champions.

The CICA programme is a community development approach to reducing alcohol harm, training local volunteers to go out into the community.

CICA volunteers attend a two-day training programme before becoming Royal Society for Public Health Level 2 accredited Alcohol Health Champions.

Dr Cathy Ure, research project manager, said: “One of the things that we didn’t factor in in the beginning, which may have had an impact on the overall success, is that the training of alcohol health champions really helped them as individuals.”

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research, the programme is being led and evaluated by The University of Salford.

Once trained, volunteers can use their knowledge and skills to offer simple advice to family, friends, and the wider community. The scheme empowers communities to take control of their alcohol consumption.

Dr Ure added: “So, it’s a great link in terms of mental health, for instance with alcohol awareness week, because many of them are reporting an increase in confidence, self-esteem, they felt they had a purpose and a meaning”.

Many of the Alcohol Health Champions have moved on from their role into a full time or part time positions, which they were unable to achieve before.

Dr Cathy Ure added: “So, in that way it has been very successful in a way we didn’t anticipate.”

This week is Alcohol Awareness Week 2020, running from 16-22 November on the theme of Alcohol and mental health. Covid-19 has meant millions of households have spent months isolating, which has had a huge impact on the increased consumption of alcohol.

A new survey commissioned by charity Alcohol Change UK, shows almost one in three drinkers (29%) have been drinking at increasing or high levels over the past six months. Over 14 units per week.

Over half of drinkers, 53%, said they have drunk alcohol due to ill mental health or boredom, at least once in the past six months. Dr Cathy Ure says;

“Anecdotal evidence from our Alcohol Health Champions reported people have said to them that they’re drinking earlier in the day, this was particularly when we’re in full lockdown”.

Click here if you would like to find out more about Communities in Charge of Alcohol hub

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