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Half of Brits ‘self-medicate’ mental health

A fifth turn to alcohol and drugs

Nearly half (45%) of over 16s use coping mechanisms to “self-medicate” current mental health issues, a poll shows.

Six in 10 (60%) said they have done so in the past, according to the survey by protection intermediary LifeSearch.

For one in five (21%) self-medication comes in the form of drink, over the counter meds or illegal drugs, while others use gambling, sex, food or spending to alleviate chronic mental health symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia or even depression.

One in three (34%) self-medicate to get a sense of control over their mental health, while one in five (21%) said they don’t have anyone to talk to about their issues. 

When it comes to talking about mental health in general, one in eight (12%) don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about it and only two in five (42%) talk to their partner about it.

LifeSearch is urging people to confide in others about these issues rather than trying to cope alone as part of its Let’s Start Talking campaign.

The research also suggests seemingly healthy behaviours can be taken to extremes in the name of self-medication. While 38% use exercise to help maintain their mental wellbeing, one in 10 (11%) exercise to excess. 

In women, three in 10 (30%) currently use over or under eating to cope with mental health issues, making it the most common form of self-medication.

Half of people (48%) who rely on self-medication said the behaviour has become a problem.

Emma Walker from LifeSearch said using a coping mechanism like alcohol or drugs seems like the easy way out, however it doesn’t solve the issue at hand. 

“Swerving meeting your issues head-on or avoiding speaking the truth can have severe long-term implications, causing heartache for our loved ones later on,” she warned.