This month, the ‘Lower My Drinking’ app has been launched for the residents of Cheshire and Merseyside. It is free to download for anyone who lives or works in the area.
The launch of the app is part of a new campaign from the NHS and local councils in Cheshire and Merseyside. The campaign aims to help local people to reduce drinking to the recommended limit of 14 units a week or less. This is of particular importance in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic which saw a rise in harmful drinking and its consequences on people, communities and services.
Research from Alcohol Change UK indicates that 1 in 5 people (21%) have been drinking more often during lockdown, with frequent and daily drinkers further increasing the amount they drink. This matters as habits are formed quickly but can be hard to break. If people start drinking at risky levels now, not only do they face the risk of immediate harms (such as accidents, fires, arguments and conflict) but also the risk of their alcohol consumption rising over the medium to long term.
Alcohol’s effects on mental health are particularly concerning, as are those of tensions in household, especially for those with children. Even more worryingly, the 2020 Office for National Statistic (ONS) data showed the highest rate of alcohol deaths since records began.
Dr Paul Richardson, Deputy Divisional Medical Director at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said “It’s been a tough time for everyone and we know that the pandemic has resulted in some people drinking to higher levels. As things open up, now is the perfect time to make changes to drinking habits as routines change with more people returning to work and people now being able to see family and friends. It is the time to get our health back on track and feel better about ourselves as life slowly returns to normality.”
The app is an effective tool that helps individuals to set and achieve a drinking reduction goal. It allows people to track progress, identify their motivation for reducing their drinking as well as highlighting issues that could potentially cause someone to drink more than is healthy for them and gives a set of proven skills that can be used to address these. As well as this, the platform gives feedback and guidance to the user, explaining side effects and the potential benefits of cutting down, including psychological, social, financial and physical. The app helps users create a plan for the future with practical ideas including ‘drink-free’ days.
The app is designed to help change how an individual thinks about alcohol and the role it plays in their life and can help the person anticipate situations that may tempt them to drink too much, and plan how they will limit their drinking when they get there. It can help the person replace drinking in a daily routine with positive activities that will feel good and to manage any impulses to drink at the wrong time or in the wrong place by using a mindfulness technique. Lorna Smythe, 46, from St Helens knew she was drinking too much at the start of the first lockdown. “I’m unsure if COVID caused me to drink more but it certainly didn’t help. There were a lot of things to worry about at home.”
The mum of four has made changes to her drinking habits and says she can’t believe how good it feels. “I’m more positive and have been able to do more things. I’ve even started Boxercise twice a week! I’m getting fitter and I absolutely love it. I’m in a much better place.”
Talking about the Lower My Drinking app Lorna says “This phone app is a godsend. So much easier to tap information into the drink diary wherever you are, rather than looking for pen and paper. It’s good to look back and reflect on your drinking habits and then you can try and improve them. You can challenge yourself to drink less the following week. People think they don’t drink that much but when you actually start monitoring it a lot of people will realise how much they do drink! The scores may even shock you. Especially compared to the recommended limits. The information and support given by the app is invaluable.”
Having worked at Hitch marketing for almost 10 months at this point, I can safely say that my experience working here as an apprentice has gone exceptionally well. Coming out of university into an economy in recession due to the Coronavirus pandemic with a Classics degree from Uni of Leeds, I was initially extremely unsure of my career path and what I truly wanted to do. Classics doesn’t help you find your way into many specific jobs; however, it equips you with a wide range of skills, thus my options were as open as they seemed closed at the time.
I found Hitch through an apprenticeship scheme known as the Juice Academy, an apprenticeship agency specialising in digital and creative media production. The company really stood out to me not only due to their proximity to where I live (in comparison to all the firms located in Liverpool and Manchester), but also their fundamentally different focus as a social marketing firm, which is somewhat separate from the world of standard corporate marketing. When I secured my place working with Hitch, I was extremely excited to get started as work that centres around the promotion of social wellbeing over all else appealed to me greatly. With this, I knew I was walking into an amazing culture surrounded by amazing people from the very start.
My first day was the 30th September 2020. In a sequence that was bizarrely reminiscent of my first day at school, my mum dropped me off on the way to her own workplace and I made my way into the Candy Business Park to meet the team. I was let into the office and introduced to a few members of the team in the office that day, all of which greeted me with a smile on their face and told me how excited they were to have me on board. They couldn’t have been made to feel any more at home from day 1 if they tried! Everybody at the business shares a passion for making the world a better place and helping others, creating an environment in which our small team cares for one another, bringing out the best in me and the rest of us.
As I went through my induction, the pressure to deliver a good first impression evaporated, not through any sense of complacency, but from a growing sense that I was in an environment I knew I was going to flourish and work well in. A couple of weeks on and I had already taken part in various campaigns, began work on a professional social marketing course to coincide with my apprenticeship and have even proposed my own suggestion for an ambitious campaign proposal to boot! To work for a firm like Hitch is to work for a company truly willing to invest and believe in you as an employee, helping you to develop the confidence to not only survive within the world of social marketing, but to thrive also. To be saying that I’d felt this about the company at the very start of my year-long apprenticeship programme speaks volumes of how good an atmosphere this company has developed.
As I look at the time I’ve spent working with Hitch, I’ve loved working on many aspects of campaign planning and implementation, with the firm covering a wide variety of aspects of this process such as behavioural insights, digital & creative design, and strategy/implementation. My current work comes within the digital and creative department’s remit, doing things like web maintenance and the running of the Hitch social media channels, however I have also worked within the strategy and planning department and had opportunities to try my hand at many different roles within the business. In my time here, I’ve developed a strong idea of how marketing works, and I now feel confident working on any element of a marketing campaign. This has been crucial to me as I develop in this field, allowing me to get an overview of how everything works whilst developing both my creative and procedural skillsets, from video editing and subtitling to copywriting and creating analytics reports. I have received considerable support from the company on the developmental front, being put onto courses such as the ISMA social marketing course which has improved my understanding of the inner workings of a campaign from start to finish. This has helped me immensely as I’ve been able to use the skills developed on that course in my work with clients such as PaSH, GMCA VRU and CHaMPs Public Health, playing a part in multiple award-winning campaigns in the process.
To close out, I have had (and I’m still having) an amazing time here. I can’t wait to see what my future with the company beholds as I further develop my skills and continue to work with an amazing set of people. My first proper job has been a pleasure to work in and I look forward to continuing to give my all as we help to change lives for the better day by day!