Our siblings are without a doubt the people in the world who know us best. They know all of our embarrassing stories, exactly what buttons to press to annoy us, and they have the special ability to make our tempers flare more than anyone else on the face of the earth. They’re also, however, the people we’re most likely to confide in and trust implicitly with all of our deepest darkest secrets.
We all remember looking up to our big brothers and sisters growing up, taking their word on everything from fashion and music, to boys and make-up as absolute gospel (sometimes to our detriment!). They were also the first people we turned to for advice, and more often than not the people we wanted to impress the most.
Alot of us are now the big sister, cousin or auntie to someone younger than us, which means it’s up to us to give them the best advice we can possibly offer. Pressure much, right? But the reality is that, just like us before them, our little siblings or cousins are much more likely to listen to us and take our advice than that of anyone else in their lives.
That means that it’s up to us to make sure our little brothers and sisters are aware of the negative effects drinking can have on their physical and mental health. As most of us know, drinking, especially binge drinking, can weaken coping skills, lessen concentration, and cause sadness and isolation. It impacts our ability to cope with everyday stresses in our lives and the more young people drink, the more likely they are to feel anxious or depressed. Take a minute and think about whether your little brother or sister knows all of this? Did we know this at their age? Probably not.
The fact is that, being young, we’re more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, as our bodies and brains are still developing – even in our 20s. So imagine the damage it can do to our teenage brothers and sisters? It’s not so nice to think about, is it?
Of course the best way to make our siblings aware of all of this is to talk to them, and answer any questions they might have about drinking. Take the initiative, and the next time you’re hanging out, bring up the topic and you might be surprised where your conversations leads. It’s also important that we lead by example and the most effective way of doing that is to look after ourselves, be smart about our own drinking and take care of our own mental health.
If you’d like to get more information about the effects of drinking on mental health to pass on to someone younger in your life, you’ll find lots of it at mentaldrinking.ie, run by the Union of Students in Ireland and Alcohol Action Ireland.