A dry January campaign has been launched by health campaigners who are getting wet to encourage people in Sunderland to give up alcohol in the New Year.

The volunteers from Sunderland and Washington are taking part in this year’s Boxing Day Dip at Seaburn dressed up as bottles of beer to raise awareness of Dry January. The campaign, now in its second year, challenges people across the north east to give up alcohol in January.

Last year, around two thirds of those who took part managed to stay off drink for a full 31 days. Many said they didn’t miss drinking at all and that taking part had made them think differently about how much they drink. As a result four out of five decided to cut down what they drink in the long-term.

Councillor Graeme Miller, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Health,  Housing and Adult Services is putting his money where his mouth is by signing up for Dry January.

He’s also taking part in the Boxing Day Dip to promote Dry January, along with Washington Councillor Diane Snowdon who is also a trustee of Washington MIND, volunteers from the charity, health promotion workers and volunteers from Sunderland City Council.

Councillor Miller said: “We all tend to overdo it a bit at Christmas, so Dry January is really about giving yourself and your bank balance a break after the excesses of the festive season.

“The trade-off is saying goodbye to hangovers, being able to sleep better, more energy, better skin, more money in the bank and maybe even losing a bit off your waistline.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy and I’m certainly not looking forward to venturing into the freezing North Sea on Boxing Day but it’s all for a good cause so I’m happy to do it.”

All money raised by the Dry January campaigners from the Boxing Day Dip will go to Sunderland Wellbeing Network which campaigns to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people in the city.

Sunderland City Council is taking a ‘roadshow’ round organisations across the city from Monday 16 December to Friday 20 December to encourage organisations to support employees to take the ‘Dry January’ pledge. While the active bus will be outside Burger King in city centre to promote ‘Dry January’ on 19 and 20 December and signing people up to take the pledge.

Dry January is also being supported by the north east’s alcohol office, Balance. Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “Many of us are guilty of overdoing it a bit in December so we’re asking people in Sunderland to think about how they plan to start the New Year now, before the temptations of Christmas drinking takes hold.

“New Year is the perfect time to take stock of our health, particularly how much alcohol we are drinking, and accepting the challenge posed by Dry January is a fantastic way to reconsider our usual attitudes towards alcohol.

“Drinking more than the recommended limits – on a daily or almost daily basis – can have some serious long term implications for our health, including mouth and breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. In the short term, drinking too much can cause anxiety, impotence or even death from alcohol poisoning.

“Taking a break from drinking or reducing your intake is good for your long term health – but there are also a range of immediate benefits such as feeling better in the mornings, having more energy during the day and possibly losing weight.”

Anyone who wants to sign up online can also take the Dry January pledge on www.dryjanuary.org.uk The site also has lots of useful information, advice on fundraising, hints, tips and testimonials from people who took part last year.

Following Dry January’s Twitter page, @dryjanuary, will also help anyone taking the challenge by offering valuable support, ideas and posts from people taking part.

It is important to note that Dry January is not a medical detox programme and should not be attempted by people with an alcohol dependency problem – anyone considering reducing their alcohol intake in this situation should always seek medical advice first.