Given the added pressures COVID-19 has brought to people's lives, the Mental Health Commission of NSW believes Dry July 2020 should be seen as a timely opportunity for drinkers to reflect on and reset their consumption choices.
Drawing on a variety of statistical data, the organisation says it's clear that alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic.
A survey conducted by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education found that 20 per cent of households had reported buying more alcohol during COVID-19.
Among those households, 70 per cent of people reported drinking more than usual since the pandemic hit, and 32 per cent of people were concerned about the amount of alcohol they or a loved one was consuming.
NSW Mental Health commissioner, Catherine Lourey, said it was time for people to have a close look at their drinking habits.
"It's understandable that many people experiencing challenges during COVID-19 might reach for a drink, but numbing feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression with alcohol often has consequences," she said.
"Alcohol is usually big trouble when it comes to mental well-being - let's be clear about that."
Associate professor, psychiatrist and NSW Mental Health deputy commissioner, Dr Martin Cohen, said it was concerning to see the upward trend in alcohol consumption at an already stressful time.
Alcohol mucks with how you think and feel and interferes with sleep, which is critical to well-being.Dr Martin Cohen
"I worry when people are isolated and drinking more. Many people forget or don't realise that alcohol is an addictive toxin and central nervous system depressant that, if abused, harms you," Dr Cohen said.
"Alcohol mucks with how you think and feel and interferes with sleep, which is critical to well-being. It can insidiously bleed through your whole life and exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression. That's before we get to social impacts including violence, accidents, broken relationships, job-losses, self-harm and the significant public money spent trying to address alcohol-related problems."
You may also like: Rainbow Warriors FC raise thousands for Autism Australia
Dr Cohen said excessive alcohol consumption was often a vicious cycle, but it could be eased when people began to understand both the associated harms and the alternatives that were available to them.
"Alcohol plays a big part in our culture and is widely marketed, but the reality is it can be a trap for people who don't know the risks. We ask that people apply the brakes to their alcohol consumption in July and challenge the role of alcohol in their lives," he said.
"If a person is taking medication for anxiety or depression or a psychotic illness, or even if you don't need medication but are struggling with these issues, reducing your alcohol intake will improve your health.
"Anyone feeling out of sorts should know solutions and supports are often close, such as talking with a friend, contacting a help line or seeing a doctor or counsellor. Exercising or taking up a hobby are other options. If you're struggling emotionally, almost anything is better than reaching for a drink."
According to the Dry July Foundation, more than 37,000 Australians are currently taking part in the initiative and more than $5 million has been raised so far to support people with cancer.
To find out more about Dry July, click here.
Stay ahead with local news by signing up for the Manning River Times newsletter here.