Planet Youth drug and alcohol program, pioneered in Iceland, to roll out in Murray Bridge

A program from Iceland is about to be rolled out in Murray Bridge in an effort to turn young people away from drugs and alcohol.

Planet Youth proved stunningly successful in Iceland, where drug use was once more prevalent than almost anywhere else in Europe, during the presidency of Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, now the organisation's patron.

The proportion of year 10 students regularly getting drunk fell from 42 per cent to 5pc, and the number who smoked daily fell from 23pc to 2pc.

Bullying and juvenile crime were also reduced.

Now, under the federal government's national ice strategy, Planet Youth is coming here, and to nine other centres around the nation.

Headspace operations manager Frauke Hobbs was one of three members of a local drug action team who flew to Melbourne last week to learn about it.

She described Murray Bridge's selection for the program as a "big win".

The first stage of the program will involve surveying every year 10 student at Murray Bridge High School, Unity College and Tyndale Christian School later this year.

The teenagers will be asked about the risk factors that led young people to begin using drugs and alcohol: peer pressure, stress, family conflict, isolation, a lack of recreational opportunities.

They would also be asked about protection factors: "things that would prevent them from using", such as the example set by drug-free parents or family members.

Data from the survey will be sent to a specialist team in Iceland for analysis before being published in the community.

Schools, local service providers and the Murray Bridge council will then use what they learn to set goals around reducing drug and alcohol use, whether by providing more recreational opportunities, more support for parents or stronger connections between families.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation chief executive officer Erin Lalor said the program would be anything but a short-term fix.

"Preventative health works, fiscally and socially," she said.

"However, it can sometimes take years and even generations to precisely determine a program's impact.

"Long term investment in community-led prevention leads to significant reductions in alcohol and other drug use."

Planet Youth has been rolled out in 110 communities worldwide since being introduced in Iceland in 1998.

In Murray Bridge, it will run alongside an all-ages drug and alcohol rehabilitation program for which the Murray Mallee General Practice Network received $1.5 million in federal funding in March.

  • Get help: Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 1300 858 584 or adf.org.au; Headspace Murray Bridge, 3-5 Railway Terrace; or Alcoholics Anonymous, www.aa.org.au.

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