Psychologist Shares Advice To Help You Survive A Stag Or Hen Do
Before a stag or hen do, many people feel a strange cocktail of emotions: full strength excitement with an anxiety mixer - much like stags and hens do before the big day itself.
In decades past, pre-wedding celebrations comprised of the to-be-weds sitting in their local with a few mates and having some drinks. Nowadays - with the affordability of flights and pints in foreign lands - a typical stag or hen do consists of four days of booze, gimp suits and debauchery in the likes of Prague, Amsterdam or Las Vegas.
This of course means we have a lot more to get excited about, but it also brings in equal measure a lot more to be fearful of.
Between 2008 and 2018, at least 30 British men died on stag dos, according to The Guardian.
In 2015, two men on stag dos died at the same hotel in Ibiza - Andrew Watson, 32, was found dead in his room having taken MDMA, Robert Gillespie, 26, fell from a fifth floor balcony.
In 2017, best man Paul Bush, 36, was found dead at a bottom of a flight of stairs in Budapest.
Last year, Liam Colgan, 29, was found dead in the River Elbe in Hamburg, 10 weeks after going missing on his brother's stag do.
And last month, Ruth Maguire, 30, drowned on her hen do - she was buried in her wedding dress.
So easily, a celebration that should be the happiest of occasions can become the total opposite. But what is it about stag and hen dos that makes them so hazardous?
Dr Richard De Visser - who has written extensively about the effects of alcohol - believes the adjusting of our individual limits during such dos opens us up to greater danger.
Speaking to LADbible, the reader in psychology at University of Sussex, said: "One of the things about stag and hen dos is that people are saying that this is timeout, particularly if you go somewhere new. If you jump on a plane and you have taken a day or two off work, this is predetermined as not normal time, we're going out to have a particular kind of celebration.
"So people give themselves permission and set themselves up for an exceptional kind of event. If you set yourself up for that, then your limits you might normally have on an individual level might be lessened, but also, you're in a group of people who have also lessened their limits, so there might be more encouragement to carry on as well."
The danger is particularly heightened when going abroad for a stag or hen do, as getting drunk in unfamiliar surroundings poses additional risks. In 2017, Sam Clancy, 24, died on a stag do in Budapest after looking the wrong way before crossing a six-lane carriageway.
The prevalence of fancy dress can also single out revellers as targets, who are likely to be intoxicated and vulnerable. Dr De Visser said it can be harder for stag and hen parties to get themselves out of sticky situations too.
He said: "If you're in an unfamiliar setting it's harder to get yourself out of trouble. Say if you're drunk at home, you might normally go outside to catch some fresh air. But in an unfamiliar setting you might get lost, your friends may not know where you've gone.
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"Plus, when you've been drinking, not only are you far more likely to be a perpetrator of violence but also a victim of violence as well. If you're in a situation you're not familiar with, and you don't speak the language, and you're drunk, and something happens, it's harder to get yourself out of that altercation."
One of the key reasons why people find themselves in situations they normally wouldn't is because of peer pressure and a reluctance to be perceived as the party-pooper.
Dr De Visser explained: "These dos are about being together, so if you said you didn't want to come out people would have a hard time with that, and that general principle applies to each drink - we're all in this together.
"People often think about peer pressure as a direct thing, and someone coming up to you and saying 'you've got to drink this'. But so much of it is about the expectation that everyone carries around with them and makes them feel like they should."
The age-old challenge then is to get into the spirit of the occasion without veering into dangerous waters. To lose control, while retaining some.
Dr De Visser said: "If people think about when they actually feel really good when they're out drinking, it's not when they've had too much, it's not when you feel like you've been hit in the back of the head with a cricket bat, actually when you feel good is the hour or so before that.
"What that means is you're kind of getting the buzziness of drinking that does make it more fun, it makes you feel more social and maybe a bit more silly - whether that's dancing or chatting someone up - but there's a delayed effect, so the drink you've had might not hit you until an hour later.
"One of the paradoxes is that you do want to lose control a bit, because that's why you're there, to have fun, but you don't want to lose so much control that you're completely out of it and you feel unsafe or get yourself into a dangerous situation.
"The problem is trying to keep in control means you have to be a little bit sensible, when you're also trying not to be sensible at the same time."
However, the art of knowing just when to rein it in is much easier on paper than in practice, and no doubt all of us have gone way beyond this point on numerous occasions. But while a drunken miscalculation in your local pub or club can often be easily be resolved by your mate chucking you in a taxi home, it might not be so simple on a stag or hen do, when nobody knows where anything is and everyone is more drunk than usual.
As such, it could be wise to devise and escape plan while sober, which you can fall back on should you go too far and that can increase your chances of staying out of harm's way.
Dr De Visser said: "It can be useful to think of an exit strategy in advance, so if you do feel rubbish, how are you going to get from where you are to where you're staying? Do you have the address? Have you got the numbers of the people you need to call? Has your phone got enough charge? All that kind of stuff. Just a little bit of planning can provide a safety net that doesn't hold you back, but is just there if you need it."
Of course, countless stag and hen dos go by without tragedy and most form fond memories that will last a life time. However, it is worth doing what you can to make sure your next stag or hen do isn't one of those that is remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Featured Image Credit: PA