By Martine Berg Olsen, Metro UK

Nearly half of Brits self-medicate by using drugs, alcohol and sex to cope with mental health symptoms, according to a new study.

One in five currently use over the counter medication, alcohol or drugs, while others use gambling, sex, food or spending to relieve anxiety, insomnia and depression.

The new LifeSearch study claims 24 million people identified self-medication as a coping mechanism. While 38 per cent use exercise to help maintain their mental wellbeing, one in 10 exercise to excess, it found.

In women, three in 30 per cent currently use over or under eating to cope with mental health issues, making it the most common form of self-medication. Half of people who rely on self-medication said the behaviour has become a problem.

Emma Walker from LifeSearch said: ‘While awareness of mental health is higher than it’s ever been, we’re seeing a gap between understanding and action.

‘Many people don’t realise that their relationship with things like alcohol, drugs and exercise can be tightly related to their mental wellness and, alarmingly, when they do they can be too afraid to talk about it. ‘Often, using a coping mechanism like alcohol or drugs seems like the easy way out, however it doesn’t solve the issue at hand.’

The research showed that one in three self-medicate to get a sense of control over their mental health, while one in five say they don’t have anyone to talk to about their issues. When it comes to talking about mental health in general, one in eight don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about it and only two in five talk to their partner.

Emma added: ‘Swerving meeting your issues head-on or avoiding speaking the truth can have severe long-term implications, causing heartache for our loved ones later on.

‘Mental ill-health shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to safeguarding yourself and your family’s future – and it all starts with one open, honest conversation. ‘We know that this is easier said than done, but we hope that we can inspire people to have those conversations.’

LifeSearch is now urging people to confide in others about these issues rather than trying to cope alone as part of its Let’s Start Talking campaign, which aims to encourage Brits to have those necessary but uncomfortable conversations.

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