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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Alcohol education


Last week I attended an alcohol and mental health conference in Glasgow. It was a
fascinating day and although I already knew the statistics for Scotland with regards alcohol, mental health and suicide, even I was shocked at the extent of the problem and the contrast to other European countries and even England.

But I would also say that this conference had a lasting effect on me and my opinions on alcohol education in schools. The speaker pointed out that for a small group of children, particularly when the education sessions are delivered in primary schools, these sessions are not educational, they are terrifying.

Think of the ten year old who, on hearing about the health risks of alcohol thinks “That’s my mum”. As one social worker said to me afterwards, “These children have to go through the rest of the school say, feeling sick and worried because it has just been pointed out to them that their parents who are heavy drinkers are likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver”.

These education sessions are well meaning, but perhaps we need to remember that in any one class there is likely going to be at least one child who is already living with the effects. Terrifying these children is not the answer.

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