Three in 10 young people say that alcohol and/or drugs are a problem for their family and peers, according to a new Mission Australia report.
These young people are more negative about their future, have greater personal concerns including around mental health and have poorer family relationships than young people who aren’t worried about this issue.
Mission Australia’s CEO James Toomey said the report showed “those in our community who engage with problematic alcohol and drug use aren’t the only people who are affected.”
“We need to look at the very real negative implications and ripple effect that this is having on young people who see and experience these behaviours in their close networks,” Mr Toomey stated.
“These young people are experiencing greater levels of sadness and are more likely to feel negative about their future than their counterparts. They’re faced by situations where they are surrounded by alcohol or drug use, with limited appropriate support or guidance.”
The report – Close to home: young people and the impact of alcohol and drug use by family and peers – was part of Mission Australia’s 2018 Youth Survey of more than 28,000 young people. More than 7600 – or nearly three in 10 – of those young people agreed that alcohol and/or drugs were a problem for their family and peers. Their responses were compared to respondents who said they “did not agree” it was a problem in their close circles. The results were analysed to identify the negative impacts for young people on their individual concerns, well-being, aspirations, family relationships and support when substance use is a problem for their family or peers.
Almost double the proportion of young people who agree that alcohol and drugs were a problem in their immediate networks reported feeling very sad/sad with life as a whole – Close to Home report, Mission Australia
The research revealed that almost double the proportion of young people who agree that alcohol and drugs were a problem in their immediate networks reported feeling very sad/sad with life as a whole (15.5 . per cent compared with 7.9 per cent of those that that did not agree). Higher proportions of young people who agree that alcohol and drugs were a problem also reported feeling very negative or negative about the future (13.8 per cent compared with 8.4 per cent of respondents that did not agree).
Young people who agree that alcohol or drug use was a problem for their family or peers indicated much higher levels of personal concern about every listed item, most notably mental health, family conflict and coping with stress than other young people (42.5 per cent, 28 per cent and 52.7 per cent, compared with 26.7 per cent, 13.6 per cent and 39.8 per cent of those who did not agree).
Almost three in ten young people who agreed that alcohol and/or drugs are a problem for their family/peers rated their family’s ability to get along as only fair or poor (16.9 per cent and 12.3 percent respectively, compared with 9.4 per cent and 4.3 per cent of those that did not agree).
A lower proportion of young people feel that alcohol or substance use behaviours are a problem in their close circle said they had someone they felt they could turn to if in a crisis (86.7 per cent compared with 92 per cent of those that did not agree).
“The impacts of growing up in this environment not only affects their ‘here and now’ experience of their world, but also their futures. Young people need the support of family and friends to stay engaged with education and transition into employment. Supporting young people into their future often means engaging their family and peers too.” Mr Toomey explained.
“There’s an urgent need for more age-specific, culturally appropriate rehabilitation services for both young people and adults right across Australia.” – James Toomey, CEO Mission Australia
Mission Australia is calling for greater support for this cohort of young people. The charity is appealing to governments, schools, community service organisations, families and local communities to work better together so that young people and their immediate networks have the supports they need to address alcohol and drug problems and the related stresses when they arise.
“This report confirms the importance of approaching this issue from all angles, with evidence-based solutions to better support these young people, their families and peers,” said Mr Toomey.
The Mission Australia CEO also noted that ensuring every young person had the opportunity for a bright future required tailored supports to be are readily available for those young people who are facing barriers to finding work or to remain engaged in education.
“There’s an urgent need for more age-specific, culturally appropriate rehabilitation services for both young people and adults right across Australia. We also need more early intervention, prevention and education services on alcohol and drug dependence from early school years through to adulthood.
“We all have a responsibility to address the use of alcohol and drugs in our community. We need to shift attitudes towards excessive and problematic alcohol and drug use and help forge a better path for these young people as they move from adolescence to adulthood,” he said.