What is colloquially known as “silly season” is now upon us. This name in itself should get us thinking about the kind of behaviour we expect or we think is expected of us—does this mean that everyone is expected to party, drink alcohol and get silly? According to recent research released by VicHealth and Turning Point there is an increase of hospital admissions, ambulance call outs and arrests on and around public holidays <http://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/Publications/Alcohol-Misuse/Drinking-cultures-and-social-occasions.aspx> and major sporting events <http://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/Publications/Alcohol-Misuse/Sporting-events-Drinking-cultures-and-social-occasions.aspx>.
Perhaps this season is the perfect time to step back and look at our own use and perceptions of alcohol and how our behaviours and expectations may influence others. For example, when out for dinner, at a sporting event or after-work drinks, do you often feel that everyone is expected to drink alcohol? If you don’t want to drink or you have had enough do you feel like to have to have a reason or excuse because “no thanks” is not sufficient? Does the “water cooler” conversation Monday morning at work often involve a person proudly sharing how they pulled-up after a big weekend?
The pressure to drink may not be obvious or overt but our perceptions of societal norms do influence our behaviours and help shape the behaviours of others around us. On the flip-side, as a society we all have a role in setting these norms and expectations, including those relating to how we celebrate and use alcohol. So what can we do?
Planning or attending a celebration at home, work or at your sporting club? We often focus on young peoples’ drinking behaviours and parties that we may forget that we also have rights and responsibilities when hosting or attending all celebrations. Many of the suggestions for hosting parties for young people can be applied to all celebrations < http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/topics/safe-celebrations>.
Looking for a gift for someone? Often alcohol is used as a gift. People may consider it a “safe” present that doesn’t require too much investigation into that person’s interests and activities. It may also be convenient because there is a range of different alcoholic products of varying prices. However there are many other options available <http://createsend.com/t/r-E948A985161ADAC2> such as chocolates, plants, or vouchers for books, movies and restaurants.
We’d love you to share what steps you are taking to help change Australia’s drinking culture. Does your workplace have a responsible service of alcohol strategy for parties? Do others, including young people, see you celebrating and holding parties where alcohol is not the “main event”? Do you have a great gift idea that has replaced the traditional “thank you” bottle of wine? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cindy Van Rooy
Australian Drug Foundation