To drink or not to drink, that is the question

Alcohol Awareness Week is a new initiative by uea(su) to raise awareness about how alcohol affects your mental health. University culture relies heavily on alcohol and activities surrounding drinking. However, not everyone enjoys a drink or the culture that surrounds it.  

uea(su) is also a member of the NUS’s Alcohol Impact project. The project claims to challenge stigma surrounding drinking alcohol and impact societal norms around drinking. Additionally, the project also wants to support students on their journey to develop a positive relationship with alcohol and improve their mental wellbeing.  

Alcohol Awareness Week is also educating students on how to drink responsibly, particularly on what a unit of alcohol looks like for different alcohol beverages. It is commonly thought that students regularly binge drink and are unaware of the impact that consuming vast amounts of alcohol can have on both your physical and mental wellbeing.  

Various activities have been held within Union House’s Hive to promote awareness about the negative impact drinking can have upon your wellbeing. The Alcohol Impact team have been educating students about the number of calories the popular alcho-pop ‘VK’ has per bottle.  

The uea(su) bar have also held drink deals all week, reducing the price of Heineken 0%, Seedlip and Tonic and pints of Coke Zero and Lemonade. 

Jake Walker-Charles, a Second Year English Literature student stated: “As a student who doesn’t drink alcohol, I support the week and think it is especially important for first years because coming to uni is quite a big change and can develop quite a negative relationship with alcohol during this turbulent time.” 

Amelia Trew, Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer at uea(su) said: “Alcohol Awareness Week is a great opportunity to start a conversation about students relationships on campus. Our work [last] week [was a] small part of raising awareness about alcohol  consumption from a stall where students can better understand units of alcohol to reducing prices on alcohol free drinks over the week so people can give them a try on a night out in our venues. Beyond the week we have a whole host of activity to offer those  who chose not to drink from our year round Do Something Different programme to supporting societies to get access to cheaper non alcohol focused socials.” 

Sam Hewitson,  Third Year Politics and International Relations student first came to UEA at the age of 17: “They’re important because having the option to not drink doesn’t make you feel forgotten about. I felt that coming to university revolved around drinking and I had anxiety about not fitting in. There is the implication is a prerequisite to having fun.” 

Alternatively, Matt Branston, a Second Year Politics student who doesn’t drink alcohol commented: “I think it panders to people who don’t drink because they feel quite derogatory and segregate you even further.” 

UEA is a community and it is important to create and maintain relationships that do not rely on the consumption of alcohol. Alcohol can help students to come out of their shells and make friends at university, but it can sometimes contribute to the anxiety students feel and can consequently have a negative impact upon their wellbeing. Hangovers and ‘hangxiety’, can lead to students having a heightened level of anxiety and stress, in addition to any mental health issues they may be experiencing about their academic responsibilities. It is important to recognise university is a space where you can enjoy yourself without having to rely on alcohol. Initiatives and celebrations such as ‘Alcohol Awareness Week’, which celebrates being t-total are key to making the university community completely inclusive.  

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Jess Barrett

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August 2022
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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