The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern
Ireland wholeheartedly supports Health Minister Michael
McGimpsey's call for minimum pricing for alcohol, saying that
this could save lives as well as money.
The Department of Health, Social Services and
Public Safety (DHSSPS) today issued a report
showing that the cost of alcohol abuse in Northern Ireland is
up to £900 million a year. The average estimate of the cost to
mental health services is around £13 million, including £8.6
million from inpatient admissions and the £4.2 million cost to
Community Psychiatric Teams.
Dr Philip McGarry, Chair of the Royal College
of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland, said: "Psychiatrists not only
treat people with long-term alcohol abuse problems, but those whose
drinking is contributing to and causing mental disorder and self
harm. The Royal College of Psychiatrists does not oppose
responsible drinking, but we see the dreadful consequences of
harmful and hazardous alcohol consumption.
"We are pleased that Mr McGimpsey has
acknowledged the need for minimum alcohol pricing as we know from
international evidence that this works. Walk into any supermarket
this week and you will see World Cup offers on beer. Supermarkets
use cheap booze to get customers through the door – minimum pricing
would tackle that.
"The World Health Organisation says that
increasing the price of alcohol is one of the most effective ways
of curbing harmful drinking. We need to make alcohol less
appealing, particularly to young people. The evidence is that
banning advertising, limiting the number of retailers and
introducing minimum pricing works."
The relationship between alcohol misuse and
mental health problems is complex, with alcohol both contributing
to mental health problems and being used by some people with mental
illness to ‘self medicate’.
Alcohol misuse is also linked with suicide
rates. Research has shown that 62% of people who died by suicide in
Northern Ireland who had been in contact with mental health
services within one year of death had a history of alcohol
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Note to editors:
On 15 June, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said that further action is needed to tackle the alcohol misuse problem that costs Northern Ireland up to £900million per year. The Minister was speaking as findings of a research study to estimate the cost to society of alcohol misuse to Northern Ireland in 2008/09 were published.