Early in the week, together with other Heads of independent schools I attended a webinar offered by Paul Dillon from DARTA (http://darta.net.au/). The presentation spoke of the current trends in the use of e-cigarettes or (more commonly known now as Vaping) as well as a new range of recreational activities about which previously I knew very little. This week, without alarming or distressing the reader, I want to share this information with parents and the community so we can work together to protect and nurture our children and young people while they are school. My eyes are a little more open than they were.
The findings of the Global Drug Use survey and other sources suggests that COVID-19 has changed behaviours amongst adults and young people. https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/gds-covid-19-special-edition-key-findings-report/ There is greater personal use of alcohol in homes by adults, sometimes alone. There is evidence that this is having an impact on the mindset of young people and children.
Adolescent events are restricted in numbers because of COVID-19, which leads to gatherings being run in public places including parks and the beach.
The use of cannabis products has increased across young people, with usage steadily rising since its low point of 2008. There is ambiguity in public policy about cannabis in some parts of the world and different states of Australia, which can make students feel it’s more acceptable in the community. Cannabis is now being distributed through edibles like brownies or even in the form of confectionery. Who knew?
Schools report a significant increase in the vaping or juuling (which is a form of vaping that uses an electronic device), with a vastly increased array of flavours and styles now available. In the minds of many students there is ambiguity about the health effects of vaping. It is often clandestine and hard to detect, with cleverly packaged devices that could easily be mistaken as highlighting pens. We have certainly observed an increase amongst some social groupings at the School and continue to work with families.
Less commonly observed in school but rising in the community after hours is “Nanging”, which is the use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) for a brief “high”. This is not new, but its usage is changing. There now are quite openly marketed “Uber” style delivery services now providing capsules to the door, often appearing to be materials for use in preparing foods like whipped cream or soda drinks. Who knew?
For more information on these matters, this link will take you to excerpts from the presentation.
What do we do? Practise CPR
We must work together in a partnership to nurture our children.
Barker has a wonderful culture, with the community and the School have a shared goal of nurturing our children into the best version of themselves, safely, lovingly, graciously, and gratefully. It is always important to work together as a team to support our students. Share information and concerns, with awareness of the world in which our young people are living. Children and young people need social connection with one another for their wellbeing and sense of connection.
The School practises the CPR approach to protecting our children, staff and parents:
We should never be surprised when a young person makes a poor decision. However, Vaping once detected, will lead to consequences. Justice needs to be seen to be done, because it is a way of providing security and safety for all. We protect them by keeping them connected in the classroom, in the rehearsal room and in sporting teams. We build our community on relationships that are warm and personal. We point out errors and correct mistakes, striving to ensure that students (and parents) know there is always a way back. Working together is the key. It also helps to know what is going on.
We take our duty of care to our students and staff seriously and we are committed to providing a safe environment for all our students, staff and visitors.
We are mindful that drug use, or any drug related incident interferes with the social emotional and academic wellbeing of students. It damages relationships and disrupts the quiet enjoyment of learning at Barker.
Our pastoral care team follow careful guidelines in addressing any concerns relating to drug use and Senior Staff are underway with reviewing our policies to ensure they capture current evidence-based research. They are experienced, highly competent and wise people in whom I have complete trust.
In completing the policy review we will enlist the voice of our student leaders and support their leadership amongst their peers in this important area.
We look forward to sharing these policies with our community this term.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)
Over the last two years we have been investing in upskilling our staff in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), a key session within this two-day training is Substance Misuse.
We have three senior staff accredited as Mental Health First Aid Instructors and have trained over 120 staff in Youth Mental Health First Aid.
We are working towards implementing the Teen MHFA program within the senior school in the near future. This will support students in Years 7 – 9 and Years 10 – 12 to have the skills and knowledge to provide mental health first aid to their friends by recognising signs and symptoms and through the promotion of help seeking behaviour. We have previously shared with you our strategy to enhance mental health literacy amongst our community and are delighted with the progress of this Mental Health First Aid initiative.
Planned for 2021 is the facilitation of Youth Mental Health First Aid training for interested parents, to work in partnership with you as we provide a safe learning environment for your children.
If you want to discuss any issues raised in this newsletter, please do not hesitate to reach out to your relevant Dean (Middle School and Senior School), the Counselling Staff, the Chaplaincy Staff, Ms Dudgeon (our Director of Wellbeing), the Barker Clinic or a trusted teacher. I also welcome a conversation if you feel the need.
Let me close with the wisdom of Proverbs 22:6
Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.