Pubdate: Fri, 04 Dec 2015
Source: Coast Reporter (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Coast Reporter
Author: Christine Wood


We were shocked this week to find out about the dramatic upswing in
the number of youth abusing drugs and alcohol and the prevalence of
cocaine on the Coast.

According to the Sunshine Coast Youth Outreach Program, 60 per cent
more youth are using and abusing drugs and alcohol than compared to
the same period last year, and the new drug of choice for teens is
cocaine. Cocaine is fast approaching the popularity of pot among local
teens, according to youth outreach program coordinator Tonya Ste. Marie.

Just as concerning is the growing number of youth becoming victims of
sexual exploitation. The outreach program reported 45 per cent more
youth affected by sexual exploitation this year compared to last year
- - a total of 367 youth - and most of that sexual exploitation is
linked to drugs.

No one has a solid explanation as to why these numbers are on the
rise. Ste. Marie said the same issues are surfacing in the Lower
Mainland, but that doesn't explain why. It just shows there's company
in our misery.

Vanessa White, director of instruction and student support services
for School District No. 46 (SD46), has an interesting hypothesis.

She thinks perhaps all of the education being done by the school
district about the various counsellors and outreach workers available
to help teens is resulting in more youth reaching out and seeking support.

We may want to grab onto that reasoning to take some comfort, but more
research is needed to support the hypothesis. Regardless, the fact is
we have hundreds of teens in serious trouble.

It's heartening to see SD46 and Sunshine Coast Community Services
provide supports such as education, counsellors and outreach workers
for youth struggling with drug and alcohol abuse and sexual
exploitation, but more obviously needs to be done.

Ste. Marie suggests parents take a lead role in talking about the
issues with their children by way of a "mentorship-style" talk, rather
than a lecture, to help impact the numbers.

She suspects most parents don't know about the prevalence of hard
drugs, alcohol and sexual exploitation amongst Coast youth and admits
she herself wouldn't be aware if she wasn't working in youth outreach.

We hope our story in Coast Reporter this week informs parents and acts
as a starting point for some important discussions to take place.
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MAP posted-by: Matt