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Sobering statistics about women and alcohol to be discussed at seminar


Áine Ryan

WOMEN’S relationship with alcohol and its impact on their health is the subject of a public seminar to be held in Castlebar on Tuesday next, November 10.  
Entitled ‘Start the Conversation’, the free gathering will be addressed by a number of national and local experts ‘on the changing nature of Irish women’s drinking habits, the specific impact that alcohol has on women’s health and relationships, and the risks and misunderstandings that can be associated with drinking during pregnancy’.
 Statistics show that a higher proportion of Irish women drink alcohol (77 percent) compared with women in other European countries (68 percent). This is compounded by the fact that four out of ten Irish women drinkers have confirmed they drink at a level damaging to their health. Reports also show that ‘since 1995, Irish teenage girls have been drinking as much and sometimes more than their male counterparts’.  Moreover, a recent international study has found that 80 percent of women in Ireland drink at some point in their pregnancy compared to 65 percent in the UK, 38 percent in Australia and 65 percent in New Zealand’.
“It’s worth starting an honest conversation with ourselves and with our friends and loved ones about what we are drinking, why we are drinking and if there is another way that we as women in Mayo can celebrate or reward ourselves,” said Debbie McDonagh, Family Support and Training Development Worker with the Western Region Drugs Task Force. She will be one of the panel of speakers at the seminar.
“The reality is that Irish women have a changing and worrying relationship with alcohol.  Alcohol has a very specific and serious impact on women’s health and wellbeing, our relationships, families and children,” she continued.

Ongoing conversation
Ms McDonagh added that the seminar’s aim was to ‘start an open, lively and ongoing conversation about how we can ensure that women and girls have a safer and healthier relationship with alcohol in their lives’.
Other speakers include: Gary Broderick, Director of the SAOL Project in Dublin which is working to improve the lives of women affected by addiction; Jacqueline Healy, Health and Human Rights Officer with the National Women’s Council of Ireland; Dr Marie Laffoy, Assistant National Director and Consultant in Public Health Medicine, National Cancer Control Programme; Cynthia Silva, Senior Educational Psychologist, HSE and expert in Alcohol and Pregnancy.
Organised by the Western Region Drugs Task Force (Mayo) and Southwest Mayo Development Company in partnership with Childbirth Education in Mayo University Hospital, Saolta Hospitals Group and GMIT Mayo, the seminar is part of the Western Region Drugs and Alcohol Awareness Week. 
The seminar will be held on Tuesday, November 10 at GMIT (St Mary’s Hall) from 9.15 am to 1 pm.