A Football Captain, a Security Expert, and some Youth walk into a Forum…
In 2012, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) and Maccabi Victoria successfully joined forces to organise the ‘Alcohol and Youth, Your Say!’ Forum. Over 130 high school students and parents attended. Participants were invited to have their say about the issue of alcohol misuse in the Jewish community.
What the Youth said:
- If some kid is drinking they want to get drunk that’s the whole purpose of their drinking. If one of the group is drunk then most of the others are getting drunk too or are at least tipsy.
- I would call my parents if I were in trouble, without better experience I think it is better to call my parents to help.
- Should parents give children alcohol? It is a very grey area between parental guidance versus giving kids limits. Is it actually encouraging underage drinking?
- If you give your child a couple of drinks then how can you say to them don’t get drunk, it’s the wrong message. It’s all very well for parents to supervise, after a few drinks they can’t think straight either.
- You can still be fit when you drink, but it’s all in a balance. If you like drinking and partying with your friends you can and then play sport too. It happens.
- Our sporting heroes are the AFL footballers, they are in the paper all the time not behaving and drinking. We are supposed to look up to them as stars and heroes. They drink and whatever they do, they still play. The message is that elite sportsmen can have it all.
- Alcohol, it is all around us and it has played an important role in our lives. We should make sure we surround ourselves with positive people and good influences that make us feel good. You need to have good self–‐esteem without alcohol.
- It’s a real shame that to have a good time you have to drink. It is just not necessary to take alcohol and drugs.
- The main problem is that even though alcohol is a drug it is distinguished as a lower level type of drug, but it is still a drug. The music industry has a responsibility with this issue; there are lyrics in songs today that tell us that drinking is important for a good time.
- For me it just needs to be a consistent message from parents and the media, we need to all get together and be educated at the schools with the message.
What the Parents said:
- When there is a party, parents just must be home! There should be a clear guest list. If you are not on the list, no admission. Paid security at the door is important, police should be advised of a party and all these rules should be printed on the invitation. The rules are no alcohol or no party!
- There is no use telling your kid don’t do this don’t do that in relation to alcohol and drugs. It does not work. Parents are really in the dark with what their kids are up to at parties. Parents want the ability and confidence to trust their kids. It’s hard.
- Kids should be taught early on to ring Hatzolah for help.
- Parents ourselves need more education in what to do and how to speak with our kids about alcohol.
- Medical evidence seems to support that alcohol should not be given to youth, however Shabbat wine and for Kiddush it’s fine. Studies show that alcohol causes some degree of brain damage to teenagers. Conclusion is, no alcohol until at least 18 years of age. It’s a firm no to underage drinking!
- Alcohol effects judgement, the body cannot process excessive alcohol. It is a poison and stays in your body for days. Alcohol can be addictive and lead to depression.
- Back in my youth is was cool to smoke; alcohol and smoking went hand in hand. Now it is definitely uncool to smoke. I look for the day the government takes action against alcohol. Hopefully in the next 20 years there will be some changes.
- As parents we need to be good role models; we are the same as the general community. Jewish kids have plenty of access to money; we have more festivals, Friday nights. We can’t blame society in general. Parents also experience peer pressure and we all have to take responsibility!
- Parents need some sort of guidelines; our Jewish children come from sheltered backgrounds yet they are in danger. Our daughters risk assaults, our boys have had knifes pulled on them.
- We need to know more as parents.
- Our children want to fit in; our children are too scared to be different. Parents need to listen to their gut instinct, give their kids strategies and encourage healthy lifestyles.
What the panellists said:
Danny Ben Eli, BSc, MD, FACEM – Emergency Physician
The problems of alcohol and youth cannot and should not be ignored. Jewish youth and the Jewish community are not exempt. Emergency Departments in Melbourne are treating increasing numbers of alcohol–‐affected youth, including Jewish teenagers, who are putting themselves at great risk. The burden of alcohol related injuries, illness and dependence on Australian society is huge. The National Health and Medical Research Council’s 2009 “Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol” states: Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 are at greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important. For young people aged 15–17 years the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible. I urge teenagers and parents to act responsibly, set limits and provide appropriate supervision in events where alcohol consumption is likely to occur.
Danny Elbaum – Operations Manager Chevra Hatzolah Melbourne Inc
My advice to any kid who sees their friend drunk and unconscious, is look after your mate by: Making sure you turn them on their side to establish a clear airway in case they vomit. Choking from swallowing your own vomit is a grave concern. Call Hatzolah on 9527 1111. We will call an Ambulance on 000. Never be afraid to call your friend’s parents. IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Remember it could be you that needs a good friend at your side one day!
Michelle Kornberg – Family Counsellor
There is a continuum with drinking alcohol. At one end is being absolutely alcohol free and at the other end is being out cold due to alcohol. People who choose to drink need to be aware of where on the continuum they feel ok. How many drinks is it for them before they are out of control? How many drinks for them where they feel merry and safe? Parents have told me that they have a dilemma about what to do when their child’s friend is drunk. We as parents have a duty of care to anyone who is in our home and that may mean calling a child’s parent to come and get them rather than just turning them away.
Hayley Blieden – Nutritionist
The consumption of alcohol has always been a contentious issue when it comes to health and nutrition. While a little appears to be beneficial a lot can cause detrimental health effects. Alcohol is metabolised differently and preferentially to other food and beverages. When alcohol is not present, the body utilises the energy from fat, protein and carbohydrates for energy. However, when alcohol is present, it is digested first, as it attempts to rid the body of the foreign toxins. When a lot of alcohol is consumed quickly, the liver is unable to metabolise it fast enough, resulting in the alcohol circulating throughout the body. This is the reason why consuming large amounts of alcohol impacts the brain system resulting in slurred speech, altered judgement and blurred vision. The ‘Alcohol & Youth, Your Say!’ Forum was kindly funded by a Glen Eira Council Community Grant
Gary Blieden – Captain AJAX Seniors Football Team 2012
There is no question about it, alcohol does play a significant role and has an impact on sports people’s performance. It is generally recommended that elite sports men and women should not drink alcohol especially during the peak of their training and or games/competitions. This is an important lesson for youth, including Jewish youth to take on board at the beginning of their sporting careers.
David Michelson – Security Expert
It is important to remember that alcohol and youth don’t mix! In my time in the Victoria Police, I witnessed youth with alcohol poisoning, alcohol related sexual assaults, car and traffic accidents. The financial, family and social costs of alcohol related crimes are very high and are growing, as are deaths related to alcohol. The Jewish community is not immune to these problems. My best advice to parents is take and pick up your child from any and every social activity, know where they are and who they are with.
The JCCV are interested in receiving feedback on these issues through Galus Australis comments.
The above was assembled from the Alcohol & Youth, ‘Your Say!’ Forum report.