One, among many, of the unique features of the Icelandic method of reducing problematic substance use (known globally as Planet Youth) is how communities started on their paths to healthier living; they first asked local stakeholders for their views. In Iceland, over 20 years ago, when that country was experiencing very high substance use rates among its youth, an in-depth survey was completed by high-school students to find out where the risks were greatest and what supportive factors were missing. The next was asking students, parents, teachers, local health professionals and municipal leaders for their input long before any action plans were created. That approach, combined with a public will for change, allows Iceland to now demonstrate the lowest rates of your substance use in Europe.
In Lanark County, a dedicated group of volunteers working together with local school boards, the health unit, and other health and education professionals have reached the step of asking the public for their views on what can be done to reduce the risks in our local communities. In February of this year, all grade 10 students in both local school boards completed their Planet Youth surveys with an astounding 70% completion rate. Questions were asked on substance use, social pressures, family life, recreation habits, supports and/or lack thereof, and mental health among other aspects of daily life. That data has been analyzed by the same team in Iceland that has reviewed surveys from around the globe for almost 2 decades. The answers don’t provide ready-made solutions but they do make revealing connections between high substance use and low supportive factors. For example in our area 33% of respondents stated they have tried alcohol at age 13 or younger and 12% say they have been drunk in the last 30 days. 21% have used cannabis in their lifetime and 12% in the last 30 days. Across the County 43% of teens report they do not spend time regularly with their parents during the week.
On Thursday, November 24th Planet Youth Lanark County in partnership with the Municipal Drug Strategy Committee of Carleton Place will be holding a community action meeting at Zion Memorial United Church at 37 Franklin Street in Carleton Place from 7-8:30 pm. All are welcome to attend and learn about the Planet Youth method; the progress in Lanark County so far and what programs have been successful in other areas and what may be possible for our community. The meeting will also be live-streamed giving online participants the opportunity to ask questions and make comments.
Preregistration is required for either in-person or online participation in order to respect the meeting room’s capacity in a safe and healthy manner. You can find a link to the meeting at planetyouthlanark.ca.