Know where to draw the line: Encounter Youth sessions at Blackfriars

“In a time when developing an identity is everything, we encourage young people to be part  of the majority who make positive choices when socialising and celebrating.”

That’s the message from SA-based health promotion charity Encounter Youth, which this week delivered three Empower Education sessions for our Years 7-9 boys.

Speaking at the Year 9 session, “Know Your Limits”, Encounter Youth educator Zoe Mills said while all young people took risks – and that some risks were worth taking – it was important to know where to draw the line.

“I want you guys to feel like you can look after yourselves, because every one of you is important and valued,” Ms Mills told the boys.

“I want you to look after your mates. Everything is better with your mates around. We want to make sure that they’re safe as well.

“But it’s your choice. I’m not here to tell you what to do. I’m just here to present some information so that, with that information, you can make decisions that are best for you.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the percentage of 14 and 15-year-olds who described themselves as “non-drinkers” had significantly increased – from 38% of 15-year-olds in 2005 to 63% in 2017 – proof that saying no to alcohol was becoming more “normal”. And only 5% of 14-year-olds considered themselves “party drinkers”.

What remained concerning, however, was the amount some young people were drinking.

“If they are a party drinker, they are, oftentimes, having what is considered a risky amount of alcohol … more than four standard drinks,” Ms Mills told the boys.

“Risky levels of drinking mean someone is twice as likely to get into an alcohol-related incident. What we’re also noticing about this ‘party’ category is, not only are they having risky levels of alcohol, most of them are having seven to eight standard drinks. That makes them five times more likely to get into those alcohol-related injuries and incidences.”

The students heard about positive and negative risk taking, personal values and choices and were given strategies to deal with risky situations.

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.

The Encounter Youth team will return to Blackfriars later this month to present sessions for our Years 10-12 students.

Top tips for parents/caregivers

Encounter Youth offers the following tips for parents talking to their young person about alcohol, other drugs and parties…

  • Know the facts – Most high school-aged young people won’t take illicit drugs and 37% of 17-year-olds describe themselves as a non-drinker. Knowing this will help to correct common misconceptions (eg “everybody else is doing it!”) and may also provide you some reassurance!
  • Consider taking a step back in time – What would have you seen as important when you  were in your teenage years? This can help consider things from their perspective – even if it is now a bit foreign!
  • Ask good questions – Avoid judgement and, instead, seek to understand their perspective. Practice the art of asking good questions.
  • Be honest – If you have concerns, talk to your young person about these and ask them how they plan to keep themselves and their friends safe.
  • Decide on an ‘out’ or a safety net – Having a code or something that your young person can message you if they feel uncomfortable and need to picked up early can help young people be equipped to respond if something goes really wrong.


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