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Mental Health in the News

This section of the site is updated by the NIMH media unit. Our main objective is to monitor and respond to mental health reporting in Sri Lanka. We also proactively promote mental health issues, events and stories at the institute and across the country.

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Ceylon Today - July 2, 2013

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Overcoming my problem in alcohol abuse

By Dr. Prabath Wickrama

If alcohol has become the sole source of our happiness or all the happy moments are related to events attached with alcohol, most probably alcohol has become to ‘dictate’ our lives. Consideration should be given to the happiness of our loved once too; as if we fail to provide them with happiness then no other force would do it for us.
After an unbiased contemplation we may understand that we fall in to either one of several groups. Alternatively we might understand that our close companion falls in to either.

We have become dependent on alcohol: Alcohol dependency is a form of major mental illness and carries several symptoms; inability to control drinking with regard to time and amount, experiencing shakes, insomnia and other withdrawal features if we tried to skip a drink for a day or two, need to drink more than previously to experience the same effects of alcohol, progressive loss of other interests in life, continuing to drink despite clear evidence of its harm and the having a strong desire to drink.

 We are experiencing symptoms of other mental illness: we have become suspicious or jealous of our partners, we are unable to control our sadness or anger.
 We or our loved ones are experiencing other social, physical or psychological hardships due to our alcohol use.
We may be using alcohol infrequently but drinking large amounts on those occasions and modifications of the use might increase overall happiness of our lives.

We may not be using alcohol or content with our alcohol use.
As we mentioned earlier, realization itself helps to solve many of our problems to a great extent. In addition, problems due to alcohol can be solved fully with some courage and some small changes.

The first two groups we mentioned earlier, need to seek help from mental health professionals. There are several avenues for this. Almost all the General and Base hospitals in the country have mental health clinics which will help the clients with problems in alcohol. It is guaranteed that these professionals will protect your confidentiality. It is a matter of making a phone call to the nearest hospital and getting to know the clinic dates. In addition one may seek the help of a psychiatrist at the private sector. The Sri Lanka College of psychiatrists’ website advertises the name list of psychiatrists closest to you. Then there are government residential centres which help clients with alcohol problems in Mawathagama, Mampitiya and proposed centre at Chawakachcheri. You may seek help from other non-government organizations like the Malmadura; the Sri Lanka Sumithrayo Colombo branch at Horton Place.
Third group may seek help from health professionals as well. In contrast you may discuss with any other teacher, elder, priest or a counsellor whom you respect regarding the problem.

For all the groups there are several things to ponder upon.
 Alcohol will not reduce the stress or negative emotions like anger, jealousy or sadness. It will only increase them. Best is to let emotions go by talking to someone or engaging in other more constructive activities like exercise, arts or religious rituals. When we are less overwhelmed with emotions it would be easier to identify the root problem and seek some solutions.
Alcohol reduces overall health in our lives; it leads to premature aging, sexual problems, relationship disharmony and disrespect from the society.

 Alcohol is not a cure for the boredom. We should not be scared to incorporate other activities to our life; sports, religion, playing with children, arts and other leisure activities to reduce the boredom in life.
 We need friends. If most of our friends take alcohol then invariably we would be expected to drink with them. Best option would be to find alternative friends by socializing with community groups who does not get together for the sake of drinking.

There may be high risk situations where we are more prone to drink like parties, pay days, Fridays and gatherings of the work place. We should have a prepared plan, how to avoid drinking on these occasions.
 Overcoming problems with alcohol may look an overwhelming task. But then many journeys in life which appear to be impossible on the surface turn out to be quite reachable after the first step. Remember, over 80% of the Sri Lankan population do not drink alcohol.
Dr. Prabath Wickrama is a Psychiatrist at General Hospital Trincomalee.


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