Telling children to “just say no” to drugs is not enough to deal with an issue as complex as drug abuse.
Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, made this statement today, and is urging the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) and other stakeholders in the drug fight to listen attentively to how young people express themselves and ensure that interventions were tailored to address their needs.
He was speaking during the prize-giving ceremony for the Bee Drug Free Art and Writing Contest, hosted by the NCSA in the Prince Cave Hall of the District “A” Police Station.
“When young people are encouraged to use their creative talents, arts and performances wisely, it helps them to develop a sense of identity, independence, discipline, and self-worth,” the Minister said.
He added that as young people imagined ways to “say no” and figure out how they could help a friend having trouble with alcohol and drugs, they also gained a deeper understanding of the different reasons which influenced their peers and people to turn to mood-altering substances.
Mr. Abrahams commended the NCSA for conceptualising the competition, which was designed to encourage students between ages eight and 18 to think about the prevalence and availability of drugs and alcohol, and the mental and physical effects that substance abuse can have on an individual’s life.
He added that the 75 posters, 36 poems, and 36 short stories could therefore prove useful to the work of the NCSA in delivering its drug education messages and interventions.
Meanwhile, the Minister disclosed that the findings of the 2020 National Primary School Survey, conducted among class three and four students in public and primary schools across the island, will soon be made public.
He noted that at present the NCSA, the coordinating agency, was actively working towards releasing the findings before the start of the upcoming school year in September.
Mr. Abrahams said the survey, which was completed earlier this year, was designed to determine the prevalence and frequency of drug use, common drug sources and locations of use, and the age of first use for various substances.
Nailah Browne captured the first prize for the poster competition, while Aidan Jackson and Naizihah Webb obtained the second and third prize, respectively. In poetry, Dionte Francois placed first, while Riciann Alexander came second, and Takara Watson, third.
Meanwhile, the Best Short Story prize went to Kenola Greenidge, while Leandra Durant claimed the second prize and Shareece Hunte collected the third. All first place winners received a laptop.