The festive season's darker side

The festive season's darker side

19 December, 2017

December marks a time of celebration for many, however the excessive drinking that can be associated with this time of year can also contribute to a difficult period for some.

In metropolitan Melbourne, alcohol causes more than double the number of hospital presentations and ambulance attendances than any other drugs combined and these figures are rising year on year¹.Each year nearly 400 people die, and 70,000 Australians are victims of alcohol-related assaults, including 24,000 victims of alcohol-related domestic violence³.

Eastern Melbourne PHN CEO, Robin Whyte, said excessive alcohol consumption can also exacerbate anxiety, depression, relationship, financial, addiction or substance misuse issues.

“Planning ahead, keeping a check on your alcohol consumption and recognising the signs to seek support can contribute to better wellbeing at this time of year.

“If you feel you need help with alcohol use or with a mental health issue, your GP is a good first port of call to access support.”

Turning Point Director, Professor Dan Lubman, said it was important people kept in mind the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.

“The holiday period is a great time to catch up with friends and family,” he said.

“However, it is important to look after yourself and your mates.

“The last place you want to end up this summer is a hospital emergency department.”

Ms White said for some the festive season can bring its own set of concerns.

“Check in with your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours, particularly if they have a tendency to struggle with health and wellbeing issues or have previously experienced a mental health episode at this time of year,” she said.

“People experiencing mental health issues, or those going through difficult life events can benefit from using a variety of resources in their toolkit to keep them mentally healthy at this time of year including online resources, exercise, visits to mental health specialists and peer support,” Ms Whyte said.

Navigating the festive season:

1.     Drink responsibly: Excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to a range of wellbeing issues so plan ahead and drink responsibly. Alternate every alcoholic drink with a glass of water. Eat before and with alcohol. Plan alcohol-free days. Plan ahead how you’re going to get home to avoid the temptation to drive when you may have had too many.

2.     Harness the will to change: EMPHN has partnered with Hello Sunday Morning and its new program, Daybreak, to support the community to change their relationship with alcohol. Daybreak is an online program, which delivers psychosocial counselling and peer support to individuals in order to reduce problematic alcohol use and address mild to moderate symptoms of depression and anxiety. EMPHN has funded 2,000 places for residents living in the EMPHN catchment to access the app for free. The app uses the postcode of the resident to allow access to one of these places.

3.     Go to your GP: If you need help with alcohol use or with a mental health issue go to your GP who can make sure that you have the right level of support that you need, and refer to other services when required.

4.     Check in: Christmas is often a time that can highlight relationship, family, financial or addiction issues. Make it your business to check-in with others, particularly if you know someone that may struggle at this time of year. Ask how they are, listen without judgement, and encourage action or ask how you can support them. If the issue is too big for your to handle, contact a GP or health professional.

5.     Be proactive: There is a huge array of online resources available to proactively manage your health and wellbeing such as Turning Point’s Online Counselling service and the Australian Government’s Head to Health website



  • In 2015-16 there were 24,653 alcohol related hospital presentations (up from 15,661 in 2005-06) and 16,121 alcohol related ambulance attendances (up from 11,644 in 2011-12).¹
  • In 2015-16, there were 11,421 hospital presentations for all other illicit substances (up from 4,858 in 2005-06) and 7,316 ambulance attendances (up from 4,604 in 2011-12).²


¹,² Turning Point

³ Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s (FARE)

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