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Letters: We need much more public education about alcohol and its effect on our mental state

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Official figures show there was no fall in adult consumption of alcohol in Scotland in 20201
Official figures show there was no fall in adult consumption of alcohol in Scotland in 20201

I NOTE your report on the adult alcohol consumption figures for Scotland ("No fall in alcohol intake for 2021"). Perhaps concentrating too much on the volume of alcohol people drink rather than why alcohol is such a problem in Scotland might provide new insights and solutions we have not considered so far.

Understanding the nature of our drugs of choice can help many of us to reduce or stop using that drug, when it is clearly doing us harm, physically or mentally. All drinkers know only too well that alcohol can often bring lots of fun and joy, but for too many of us that ends in despair. So why is that?

It is because alcohol disinhibits us, in both positive and negative ways, depending on our personalities, our moods and the circumstances in which we consume it. Our behaviour can be enhanced or deteriorate into depression and despair. Our good and bad behaviour is developed from early childhood as we develop our own personal rules of conduct, that control how we behave, socially or in private. When we are disinhibited by alcohol, our rules of behaviour are set aside for a bit. A shy person might grab a microphone at a karaoke; tell jokes, dare to chat up people they fancy, or become the life and soul of a party.

However, the negative side of disinhibition can get us into deeper waters. If for instance we are a repressed or a highly emotional person, alcohol may allow us to say things we’d not normally dare to. An angry person may become aggressive or violent. Alcohol is involved in most suicides, because when we are in a depressed state, feeling negative about ourselves, the disinhibiting effect of alcohol reinforces the negative thinking, making us more depressed and may give us the courage to take our lives. Young people, and especially young males, are especially vulnerable to disinhibition from alcohol, because their brains are not fully wired up until their early twenties, so their ability to assess risks, control emotions, anger or sexual feelings, and judge risks such as driving at speed are seriously compromised.

I am sure that much more public education about alcohol is required. Helping people to understand the link between their mental health states and why alcohol use can make things very much worse can help many people to reduce their alcohol intake and seek professional help.

Max Cruickshank, Glasgow.

BE FAIR TO HENRY DUNDAS

IT is unfair and misleading for you to write of Henry Dundas, without proper qualification, that the end of the slave trade “could have happened 15 years before the passing of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 had it not been for his intervention” ("Report into Scotland’s slave past lacks credibility, insists professor", The Herald, June 21).

As an experienced lawyer and politician of national eminence (albeit no doubt with certain standards unacceptable today) he believed that there was no chance whatsoever of Parliament passing the bill in 1792, and that more support had to be generated for any successful legislation – which is exactly what happened.

Dundas had proved his anti-slavery credentials while acting, in a private capacity when Lord Advocate, in the 1777 hearing to free Joseph Knight. Had he not acted as he did in 1792, abolition might well have been delayed well beyond 1807.

In this “woke” world we rely on the world’s longest-running national newspaper to educate those too ready to ignore realpolitik’s nuances and necessary compromises.

John Birkett, St Andrews.

KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THE MAC

YOUR item on the Mackintosh Building ("Gutted by fire, the art school that made Mackintosh famous", Herald Magazine, June 18) concludes with “the reconstruction is under way,” something I was relieved to discover was a tad misleading. It seems that only the stabilising of the existing structure has been carried out with key project stages 2-7 per the RIBA Plan of Work still to be progressed.

It does, however, beg the question of who and under whose instruction the stabilising work was effected? Is it the case that the GSA management remains in charge despite failing twice in its duty of care, forcing silence on its staff and in consequence being rightly deemed unfit for the job by Roger Billcliffe? Regardless, I think you would do well to cover the reconstruction process of "the Mac" with the journalistic remit and backing to insist on complete transparency.

Interest will be international and it would help scotch any concerns of cronyism or nepotism. A detailed record in pictures and print of the progress of the work would also be of great interest and close attention might also provide reassurance for those benefactors who have already donated and those thinking of doing so and not least to members of the public, given the tens of millions that will come from the public purse.

Gerald Kavanagh B.Arch, Paisley.

FOOTBALL PROBLEMS RIGHT ON QUEUE

I LOVED your picture of a queue outside Hampden Park ("Remember when... Hardy fans queued for Scotland-England tickets", The Herald, June 21).

It was two years before I was born, but I was struck by the number of women trying to get tickets, possibly for "ma man who's at work". Now women queue for their own tickets and go to the games themselves. And women's football itself has flourished.

You say only 14,800 tickets were available to the general public for the Hampden match in April 1956. Wow! The attendance on the day was recorded as 134,000.

Sixty-six years on, football still has a problem with ticket allocation when some regular fans are denied access because clubs or football associations keep seats for VIPs and corporations whose members very often don't turn up.

A reminder that it was Johnny Haynes who equalised for England in the last minute of the Hampden international. He moved to Scotland and spent his last years in Edinburgh and was much-loved and respected.

Andy Stenton, Glasgow.

PINT OF ORDER

MY flabber was initially gasted on reading that an enterprising pub in Brixton, South London, has a Californian imported beer on offer at outrageous mega bucks ("Pub is flogging ‘Britain’s most expensive beer’ – for £80.15p a pint", The Herald, June 21 ).

I hope this is just a cunning plan to flog their standard brews, but if this doolally swally ever sullies Scottish hostelries I will have to reconsider my stance on a second referendum.

R Russell Smith, Largs.

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