Pubdate: Fri, 28 Oct 2005
Source: Bowen Island Undercurrent (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Bowen Island Undercurrent
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Youth)


It was a heightened level of anxiety that brought the community
together last Thursday to discuss the state of drug and alcohol abuse
on Bowen. Numerous incidents (and reputed incidents) in recent months
have helped cultivate an air of panic amongst parents and other
concerned citizens.

Overall, it was compassion, humour and a staggering willingness to
contribute, learn and forgive that dominated the meeting. There was no
finger-pointing or talk of vigilantism, despite strong concerns about
the increasing prevalence of hard drugs (particularly cocaine and
amphetamines) on Bowen.

The focus for all the panelists (Patrick Zierten, Orchard Recovery
Centre Sally Hamel, chair, North Shore substance abuse task force,
Constable Mark Fulton, Bowen Island RCMP, Corporal Rich DeJong, RCMP,
special unit on substance abuse, Ben Tamblyn, Bowen Island youth
outreach worker) was the importance in starting with ourselves, our
families and our community when we look at how to deal with drug
abuse. Although many perspectives were shared, a common theme ran
throughout them, one clearly stated by Lisa Shatzky, who suggested
that often drug abuse is "the tip of the ice berg"; beneath lies a
number of issues that are motivating that individual. For some that
may be a simple matter of needing to deal more effectively with peer
pressure (something that in itself may be indicative of low
self-esteem, an inability to assert boundaries and an unhealthy
compulsion to 'fit in'). For others, drug abuse may follow a more
serious life event, maybe bereavement, maybe experiencing a parental
divorce, maybe depression, or any number of other unfortunate
circumstances that befall us whilst on life's journey.

It was agreed that preventionary strategies for helping youth avoid
drug abuse need to be broadened and strengthened. The D.A.R.E. program
is an essential ingredient in this repertoire, but as Richard DeJong
emphasized, it should not stand alone. It takes more than one pillar
to hold up a house. In a timely speech at IPS last week, the Tibetan
government in exile's former minister for education spoke of common
causes of drug abuse amongst Tibetan youth. For her, it was a lack of
identity and purpose that proved consistent features amongst young
drug abusers.

So lets get behind a drive to educate, inspire and empower our youth.
Let's remind them that we need them. Let's remind them that despite
what they may think, they often have all the answers they need - it's
simply a matter of providing them with opportunities to realize that.
The Bowen youth Himalayan odyssey is just one example of the kind of
programming we need to have in place. Without greater opportunities to
learn life skills, young people will continue to be poorly-equipped to
face the challenges of life and unfortunately, drug abuse is an
inevitable consequence.

Parent evenings will continue once a month. The next meeting is on
Wednesday, November 2 at 7 p.m. at the teen centre.

The teen centre society also desperately needs new board members.
Parks and Rec's support of the teen centre means this board is
becoming increasingly free and creative and is open to whatever skills
and resources individuals are willing to bring. Four new volunteers
came forward at the meeting itself, and it is hoped that others will
follow. Consider it your local youth-focused think tank.

Richard DeJong will soon be hosting the second of his educational
sessions: 'Drug Trends' is offered through Bowen Island continuing
education on Nov.10.

What was obvious during the meeting was that despite its expanding and
diversifying population, Bowen Island remains a place with an
impressive sense of community. We will continue to pool our resources,
to address the needs of our youth and further develop the
organizations that parents have already established - and we should do
this without burning out our volunteers in order to create quality
events and resources. Anthony Ocana summarized a recent study that
suggests that every dollar spent on prevention (programs designed to
develop leadership and life skills and provide healthy, fun
opportunities for youth), is $7 saved in intervention (police and
medical facilities dealing with drug and alcohol abuse) further down
the road. Quite simply, funding programs that help prevent drug abuse
makes good economic sense.

So, thank you to all who attended. The atmosphere was extremely
positive and the meeting a rallying of caring, compassionate Bowen
residents willing to continue making this a great place to be a teen.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake