A Happy Ending for Schoolies


© goodluz / Fotolia.com

© goodluz / Fotolia.com

Right now, I’m completely unfolding my solution to stem the binge-fest on illegal drugs and alcohol by Schoolies, as well as the violence it fuels.

You’ll recall my solution to bring calm during Schoolies Week is based on telling a mateship story – what I call a modern fairy tale – to encourage Schoolies to watch over their mates or besties during stints of paryting.

I chose to call the mateship story a modern fairy tale because it’s a short and relevant story for our times. Plus, it includes a fierce battle between good and bad, just like the fairy tales we love.

As widespread behavioural change hasn’t yet happened, let’s change our approach to dealing with substance abuse during Schoolies Week.

My solution includes a three-point action plan to bring this modern fairy tale alive and repeats it many times so that messages on the dangers of bingeing on drugs and alcohol are heard and understood.

Parents and guardians, who have a role in guiding kids to act responsibly, can also get involved in the solution. Howzat for cool?

We’re not going to launch this three-point plan by sprouting health messages upfront as Schoolies will probably switch off. Besides, the brains of teenagers are still growing and they don’t yet have all the bits adults do, so let’s start off by appealing to their well-developed sense of pleasure.

Cue the modern fairy tale about watching over their mates during Schoolies Week. It’s a story that taps into what’s most important to Schoolies: their friends.

Three-point action plan unfolds

As with every fairy tale, this one also has important props:

  1. Reward schoolies. If Mums who breastfeed babies can get a reward, then we can reward awesome Schoolie behaviour. Maybe give them advanced standing for specific university courses, cash rewards, or music vouchers.
  2. Appoint women and men concierges. These paid workers hang out at Schoolies Week to mingle in hot spots, provide info and venue escorts each night, and have direct contact with Police and Ambos. Hey: they might even carry a stash of condoms. They’re not Big Brother, so concierges don’t supervise as the 1,000-plus volunteers already present at Schoolies Week can do that job.
  3. Blast health promotion messages throughout schooling years. For older kids, make classes practical, like telling them what drinks they can and can’t mix. Be sure they can ask all kinds of questions and under a cone of silence. OK – we probably need some ground rules as you don’t want anyone creating the next Breaking Bad.

Most of all, tell kids that any kind of short and long term drug use and abuse stuffs up their minds and bodies.  What’s more, it can lead them down a dark path.

Even a taste of molly, bath salts, spice, herbal incense, potpourri, synthetic pot or other designer drugs can lead to bizarre behaviour, hallucinogens, psychosis or seizures.

Even worse, some of the side effects of illicit drugs are not even known.

And, some designer drugs may contain ingredients that aren’t yet illegal because no one knows what’s in them, let alone their side effects.

A dark path

Over the years, I’ve heard loads of dark stories involving substance abuse from community drug and alcohol educators, their clients; and clients of drug injecting rooms; and those on methadone programs.

Ditto for people with cirrhosis of the liver who are waiting for a transplant, or seeking to clear the Hepatitis C virus from their bodies via medication.

In order to promote community drug and alcohol services, I’ve spent time trying to understand the need for them, hence those bleak stories I’ve heard. Some have totally freaked me out.

Universally, people with drug and alcohol problems tell me the same story in different ways: they regret their actions. In many cases, their substance abuse started in their youth.

They never set out to be a habitual or binge substance user. Instead, they say, “it just happened.” Once addicts, their lives spiralled out of control.

So, even though Schoolies Week is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and drugs and alcohol are present everywhere, we adults need to remember the need to keep telling kids and Schoolies about the dangers of substance abuse in a way that draws them in. Cue my modern fairy tale.

  • Do you think my solution could work?
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