At headspace Murray Bridge we support young people aged 12 to 25 with a range of issues including depression, anxiety, stress, alcohol and drug use, general wellbeing, personal or family relationship issues and bullying. We also create opportunities for young people to be actively involved in shaping our headspace services via our headspace Youth Reference Group.
We recently asked people in this group about the impact of drug and alcohol issues in our local community and what to do about it, following the longstanding and recently renewed public concern about this issue.
They commented that people are using substances as an escape from personal pain, problems and a sense of feeling hopeless about their situation.
One young person mentioned that it was hard to get away from drugs, that they were everywhere, cocaine, Ice, heroin and with cannabis always being there and available. Young people thought that using substances has become ‘normalised’ in our society, by this issue being on the news and in the media every day, especially about people being on Ice.
Other young people in the group said that you have to get to the reasons why people are using substances, that it is often related to having experienced trauma, abuse, relationship break-ups, personal loss and grief as well as peer pressure issues.
Other reasons for young people to use substances were being rebellious, social issues of wanting to fit in, be seen as being cool and wanting to act tough. Youth Reference Group members pointed out that substance misuse affects everyone, not just people from low socio-economic backgrounds.
Some of the young people suggested that more pro-active approaches of help were needed, such as having clean needle exchange programs available, to allow people using drugs in a ‘safe space’ where they are not persecuted for it, and not exposed to ‘crack heads’ through illegal use. Young people highlighted that there are not enough services in our community to help with drug and alcohol addiction.
Even if people wanted to get help with these issues, there was not a lot out there in South Australia, and if there was, it wasn’t very well known about.
One young person commented that you need to have the most supportive people around you to help you wake up and recover, and that in his case it was his family, also that it should be your family.
He said that you need a ‘hard mentor’ to pull you into line, yet that fear tactics are not working to deter people from using. Other young people said that it would help to get young people who have recovered from using substances to tell their story in order to help other people realise they are not alone.
To treat drug and alcohol addiction as a crime and send affected people to prison via a ‘punishment approach’ was seen as the worst option and prison as the worst place to be for people with substance use issues.
Our Youth Reference Group members agreed that there is no one right way to solve this problem. They said that if young people don’t have a strong mindset, if they can’t stand up for themselves and say no to using substances, they will be more vulnerable and more likely to develop substance use issues.
As part of the Murray Bridge Local Drug Action Team headspace is involved in developing early intervention and prevention initiatives for young people and families to counteract drug and alcohol misuse, conflict and violence issues in the community.
Right now we want to find out from young people, parents, caregivers, family members and friends what the contributing factors are for young people to develop problems with substance use. To access this survey, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LDATsurvey
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