BBC Article: Teen Drinking.. Pre-Edit.

Posted: March 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

Tanya Hanson reports on the increasing underage drinking populous of the Isle of Man, vilified as a problem area in the British Isles.

Underage drinking is widely reported across the British Isles, but do we find vilified areas working hard to tackle this misadventure?

The Isle of Man is the perfect example of a local government, actively challenging local issues on a local level as of 979 AD. PM David Cameron has a similar scheme in mind for the UK, but here’s the rub, if power is best distributed to local level authorities, then why is the Island at the top of Europe’s 2009 list of teen drinking problem areas?

A 14 year old youth, remaining anonymous, gave his opinion on why youths resort to drinking alcohol on the Island:

“The reason why a lot of people drink, is because there is nothing else to do and we can’t get in and out of a pretty boring Douglas easily. We want somewhere we can go, where there is not, like, set activities to do, where we can chill with our friends.”

The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD), led by Sweden, found in 2009 that 61% of the Island’s teenagers were drinking to excess. The same study will be repeated this year to gage the 2 year difference.

Dedicated IOM based ESPAD Researcher, Dr Andreea Steriu, was contacted but rightly declined to hypothesise the emerging outcome for 2011.

Bill Malarkey MHK, a Member with responsibility for the Drug and Alcohol Strategy is an advocate of the ESPAD research, he said:

“ESPAD is very good, it will give us a good picture of what is going on, so long as each survey is completed honestly. ESPAD IOM concentrates on all of the year 11’s on the Isle of Man, not a snapshot like many other countries.”

The most taxing path to understanding underlining issues deciphering why teens on the Isle of Man drink is not the what, when or where, as we already know, but the who and the how. Many teens do not wish to be implicated, those who supply them with the perfidious toxin do not wish to be named, therein lies a remedy dilemma.

To better comprehend the general scoop, Ailish Angus, Student Representative to the Isle of Man College and Student Services employee said: “There is a small population we have here on the island, groups of young people tend to mix with groups of older people.”

Ailish, who has lived out her adolescence on the Island added: “Young people drinking on the street or in bus stops seems to have near enough diminished, and now more and more people tend to go to their older friends’ houses, meaning they have easier access to alcohol.”

Acknowledging Ailishs’ conclusion naturally leads an interested party to ask the condemned, a group of 8 year 10 Ramsey Grammar School students, not to be named for confidentiality purposes. They were asked where they get the alcohol from, Anonymous (14) said:

“Just, erm, parents, out of the house. You can stand on the street corners, people from the pubs will come out and get it for you. Some will even offer it to you.”

Bill Malarkey has expressed concern at the rise in alcohol offering to young people by ‘responsible’, of age drinkers. Legislation is now being put into place so that they may more easily be charged for the offence.

You may agree that introducing a little wine to a 5 year old with a family dinner ingrains alcohol into our culture carefully, but does it take the thrill out of underage binging?

Ken Callister, Principal Youth Officer to the Isle of Man Government, has an argument that alcohol presence in the home is an encouraging factor on the way to a solution:

“Introducing it early is a good thing, alcohol can then be better understood and respected if it isn’t disallowed, but we have to be careful as to how we talk about it. Dispatch Youth Worker’s are busiest on a Friday night, our Friday night drinking culture affects their understanding of Friday night inclinations.”

Both feeling that prevention is as consequential as addressing the cure, Mr Callister and his colleague, Orla ‘O’ Donohue, Drug and Alcohol Liaison Officer, claim to work assiduously to educate and diagnose societal issues relative to alcohol abuse in adolescents, when asked how she contributes to the alcohol offensive, Orla said:

“Educating them, getting the parents on board, the community as well. There is a lot of money and resources that have been put into this, we have been brave enough to do the research and been honest about it. If there is an alcohol problem, help and advice awaits for all parties.”

Mrs ‘O’ Donohue and Mr Callister show signs of being passionate about taking on their duties, all relative to underage binge drinking and youth contentedness.

Alcohol education on the Isle of Man is visibly well delivered. Sitting in on a talk between the Off-watch team and a group of year 10 students, it is easy enough to construe the level of hard work that the Government ploughs into the education of each adolescent on alcohol abuse.

Their method is a little brutal, real world shock tactics and hair-raising case studies are dispensed in equal measure. A policeman in uniform, PC Steve Stanley, of the Douglas Central Alcohol Unit, tells of the British beat, alcohol dependency and young lives tragically lost.

Orla then educates the ladies on frightful alcohol to junk food calorie parallels before handing out ‘trendy’ help info pens, but underneath the intellectual banter and props, a deeper sense of hopefulness and purpose is evidently present in each speaker.

PC Stanley appears to be passionate about educating young people in being aware of fruitless alcohol by-products:

“It’s getting more serious now, I mean, it’s not long off into the future when they can legally drink. I know a few, that have reached that age that have already formed an alcohol dependancy.”

So the question is: If the education is skillfully applied, how is the number of Island youth bingers growing in strides?

Anonymous, (14), Ramsey Grammar Student spoke about the Off-watch talk. After expressing a need for better transportation in and out of Douglas, he said:

“We have alcohol education talks twice a year now. I think it’s better that they are saying to be responsible for your friends, they’re not saying don’t drink, that would be a bit preachy.”

So, this continually reappearing problem is simple and a superficial hurdle to clear, but with a lack in funding to appease the minority age 13-17 populous and a meekly celebrated parent alcohol education turnout, some feel that it nears the unachievable.

Without the suggestion of raising the financial bar to slow alcohol consumption, by essentially creating a luxury product out of alcoholic beverages, there really isn’t a cost effective and feasible proposal one can practicably implement.

The Government’s only decent chance at assaulting a youth binge culture appears to be the provision of low-cost facilities, and addressing the many obstacles linked directly to accessibility, including teen boredom, transportation debacles and a lack of semi-structured organised shelter, opinions all approved by Bill Malarkey MHK.

On a more general note, Mr Malarkey MHK addressed Mr Cameron’s local power to local authorities as a workable scheme. He says that the governing body in the Isle of Man demonstrates the effectiveness of a local powerhouse. This allows for local power to be broken down, turning a large amount of control to individual units, ensuring that the right amount of attention is directed favourably to those areas most in need, like alcohol education.

Between now and the September elections, let us all collectively hold our breath, hoping that the 2011 ESPAD research inspires constructive change in a group of intoxicated Manx youth.

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