Alcohol will not help manage the stress of coronavirus self-isolation, experts have said.
Medics from the World Health Organisation have warned that mental health services should prepare for a surge in need as a result of the pandemic.
They accepted that many people do turn to substances, such as alcohol, at times of stress.
But they cautioned against reaching for the booze, calling it an ‘unhelpful coping strategy.’
Dr Aiysha Malik, technical officer for the WHO’s department of mental health, said: ‘For people without addictions, using substances will not help to manage the stress of self-isolation.
‘They can make things worse.’
Dr Malik spoke after Boris Johnson’s lockdown on pubs saw supermarket shelves stripped bare of alcohol.
Earlier this week, off-licences were added to the Government’s list of retailers allowed to stay open during the pandemic.
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Dr Malik said that the WHO wanted to highlight basic strategies to help people look after their mental wellbeing including eating healthily, exercise, ensuring they get enough sleep and social support.
Dr Malik added: ‘When we’re staying at home routines are very important for creating a sense of structure.
‘Minimising the unhelpful coping strategies of using tobacco or alcohol can also be important for wellbeing and minimising content you might find distressing in the news.’
Social distancing and isolation measures are keeping people away from what they want to do and who they want to be with, which experts have said does impact on mental health.
The WHO also pointed out that if people are told they are part of a ‘vulnerable group’ this could induce fear, anxiety and stress.
Dr Malik continued: ‘Older adults and those with existing health conditions have been identified as more vulnerable to Covid-19.
‘To be told that you are very vulnerable can be extremely frightening and fear-inducing.
‘The psychological impact for older adults can include anxiety, feeling stressed or angry, and its impact can be particularly difficult for older adults who might have a cognitive decline or dementia.
‘Some older adults may have already been socially isolated before this and feel lonely which can worsen mental health.’
She said to protect their mental health people can take part in physical activity, stick to routines or create new ones, engage in activities which give a sense of achievement and maintain social connections.
A survey, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge, found 66% of those they questioned felt anxious or worried as a result of the outbreak.
The poll was conducted before the lockdown was announced on Monday.
Mental Health Foundation director, Dr Antonis Kousoulis added: ‘Even then there were clear indications that the pandemic was beginning to have a significant impact on the nation’s mental health.’
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