Police trial new education program

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Despite being illegal and detrimental to a young person’s health, more and more youth are turning to drugs and alcohol.

A survey undertaken by youth mental health foundation, Headspace has revealed higher rates of alcohol and drug use in kids under the age of 18 than ever before, with survey results suggesting 74 per cent of under 18s have consumed alcohol in the past two months and over 20 per cent have used drugs.

More concerning to the organisation is that 60 per cent of those who took part in the survey get their information on drugs and alcohol from their friends, a fact that St Marys police have been endeavouring to change for some time.

St Marys Police see youth drug and alcohol use on a weekly basis and are one of five Local Area Commands in NSW trialing the ‘Your Choice Program’ for youth offenders.

“It is more about education and using diversionary tactics than just telling them to stop drinking. We know they aren’t going to stop so education is everything,” said St Marys Police Your Choice Program facilitator, Constable Kim Sindel.

Contrary to the Headspace survey, according to the Your Choice Program’s research, over half of Australians between 15 and 17 have not had a full standard drink and only few drink on a weekly basis.

“We are talking about a minority here, but most who drink are doing so at harmful levels,” Constable Sindel said.

The Your Choice Program educates youth on safe drinking practices, the consequences of consuming harmful amounts and what to do if you are in an adverse situation, for example if a friend has alcohol poisoning.

It aims to show youth that they have other options than to just drink to get ‘wasted’.

“What is interesting to me the most, as a facilitator of the program, is watching the kids walk out with a different perspective,” Constable Sindel said.

“They are really taking in what we are talking about but the sad thing is that they are getting this education as a result of committing an offence – they are here because they have to be, not because they want to be.”

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