Encounter Youth drug and alcohol education keeping Blackfriars students safe

“As Year 12s approach adulthood, we continue to encourage them to make great choices and look after themselves and their mates.”

That was a takeaway message from SA-based Encounter Youth, which today delivered three education sessions for our senior students.

Speaking at the Year 12 session – aptly titled #Adulting – Encounter Youth Educator Louis Burden said while young people’s use of illegal drugs dominated the headlines, the use and abuse of alcohol was a bigger concern.

“Alcohol is the drug of most concern for young people,” said Mr Burden, a former police officer.

“Alcohol is responsible for 157,000 hospitalisations every year in Australia and just over 3500 deaths each year, compared to a drug like ice, for example, which contributes to around 300-400 deaths every year in Australia.

“So, that’s the reason we focus on alcohol, because it is so prevalent in our celebration culture in Australia as well.”

Louis Burden, from Encounter Youth, addresses the Year 12 cohort.

There was some good news, however, with the most-recent National Drug Strategy Household survey showing the number of young people choosing to drink had dropped significantly in the past 20 years.

“Young people are making some really positive, healthy decisions when it comes to alcohol specifically … the statistics might actually shock you,” Mr Burden told the Year 12s.

“Back in 2005, only 32% of 16-17-year-olds said that they hadn’t drunk alcohol in the past month.

“Fast forward to the latest set of data, and it’s almost double that.

“So, 16-17-year-olds, in particular, are making really positive decisions when it comes to alcohol consumption and more and more young people are choosing not to drink.”

Year 12 students Edward Glatz and Luke Fernando with former police officer Louis Burden, from Encounter Youth.

Of 18-24-year-olds, the report showed 66% had not consumed alcohol in the past month.

“The reason we show this data is these people can legally drink alcohol, legally purchase alcohol … but the majority have not drunk alcohol in the past month,” Mr Burden said.

“So, if you choose not to drink, you’re in the majority.”

Meanwhile, more than 90% of 5000 respondents to an Encounter Youth survey said they would “support a mate who did not want to drink at a party”.

“So, not only are young people making for themselves some really healthy, positive decisions, they are actually more likely to support their mates in doing so as well,” Mr Burden said.

Mr Burden addresses the students.

But, he said, despite those statistics, young people still needed to know how to keep themselves and their mates safe when it came to alcohol.

“Most of you have seen a fight at some stage in your lives. That might be in different environments – it might be a party environment or it might be in a sporting context,” he said.

Today’s #Adulting session also covered the use of vapes, how to avoid conflict and drink spiking.

Encounter Youth is perhaps best known for organising and running the popular Schoolies Festival in Victor Harbor. It also runs a number of online and in-person education sessions across South Australian schools.

Encounter Youth’s top tips for a safe night out

  • Choose to drink a little less.
  • Alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks – “There are some great non-alcoholic options avaliable now,” Mr Burden said.
  • Stick with your mates – “Don’t just leave them … particularly if they are in a vulnerable state.”
  • Know when to call it – “Get home safely. That might mean knowing when to call an Uber, a taxi or, if it does come to it, knowing when to call an ambulance.”

Other Encounter Youth sessions delivered today

  • Who’s Calling Your Shots (Year 10) – covering alcohol and brain development and attitudes, beliefs and realities of alcohol use and trends in illicit drug use.
  • Alert Not Alarmed (Year 11) – looking at what makes someone more vulnerable and what people can do to keep themselves and their mates safe.

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