Father Chris Riley on Mental Health Month

October is mental health month and 10 October is World Mental health Day. The theme this year is value your mind. When I look at young people in our services, this has never been more important.

There is a scourge on our society at the moment. Its name is ICE (or Crystal Meth) and it is having a devastating impact on our homes, community and young people. It is the worst drug to ever hit our streets and young people are more susceptible to its lure than others.

Young people who value their minds stay clear of this dangerous drug. The drug is responsible for increasing homelessness, mental illness, family breakdowns, thoughts of suicide or self-harm amongst young people.

All of our services, but our Dunlea Drug and Alcohol Youth Service (Dunlea) especially, deals with ICE on a daily basis. It is now the second most used drug among the young people we treat. ICE changes the way they look and their mental state in a profoundly negative way.

Young people are often flat and depressed when they try to break free from the drug’s grip. What they’re experiencing is a severe drop in dopamine levels, something that isn’t easily treated. Alongside these feelings is a hunger and anxiousness for the drug. This can lead to erratic behaviour and potential violence. One year, this resulted in 13 broken windows and a broken glass door at Dunlea from young people using ICE.

The solution to this problem is to get young people to value their minds. The amount of damage it does to the mental state of a young person is horrific. No one who values their mind would ever choose to do this drug. To do this, Dunlea provides a number of strategies to educate young people about the drug and what’s involved.

A lot of harm minimisation strategies and education on drugs is taught on a daily basis. Dunlea is an alcohol and other drug program and provides sharp boxes in case young people need to dispose of any injecting equipment or ICE pipes safely. We help with physical issues, such as teeth problems or skin infections. Psychologists are part of this program and are on call to ensure their mental health is being monitored.

However, not all communities have access to an alcohol and other drug program. Communities across Australia are calling out for more information on how to combat ICE. At Youth Off The Streets we focus on at least providing education around the impact of alcohol and other drugs on young people across all our programs and services. For example, one of our psychologists is working with services in Randwick to put together community forums around how ICE affects mental health and the community. People want to know what is on their streets, how to identify it and where to seek help.

ICE is one of the most addictive drugs and one that does not discriminate against age, race, or family background. Youth Off The Streets is committed to providing programs that help to not only to address the addiction, but to prevent it by teaching young people to value their mind.

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