A new Mission Australia report reveals that three in 10 young people say that alcohol and/or drugs are a problem for their family and peers. 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.
The Close to home: young people and the impact of alcohol and drug use by family and peers report compares the responses between young people aged 15-19 who agree that family and peer alcohol and/or drug use is a problem, with those that did not agree that this is a problem in their close circles. It identifies the negative impacts for young people on their individual concerns, wellbeing, aspirations, family relationships and support when substance use is a problem for their family or peers.
In response to the new Youth Survey sub report, 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.
Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said: “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.
“It’s clear from our Youth Survey research that not only do these young people experience poorer relationships with their family members, but they are more likely than their unaffected peers to express personal concerns around mental health, family conflict and coping with stress.
“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 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.”
Concerningly, the findings pinpoint 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% compared with 7.9% 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% compared with 8.4% of those 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%, 28.0% and 52.7%, compared with 26.7%, 13.6% and 39.8% of those who did not agree).
Almost three in ten of young people who agreed that alcohol and/or drugs are a problem for my family/peers rated their family’s ability to get along as only fair or poor (16.9% and 12.3% respectively, compared with 9.4% and 4.3% 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 responded that they had someone they felt they could turn to if in a crisis (86.7% compared with 92.0% of those that did not agree).
Mr Toomey continued: “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.
“A range of mental health related supports should be available for young people who are concerned about coping with stress, mental health and suicide and are also worried about the use of alcohol and drugs among their families or peers.
“It’s also vital that we ensure these young people have every opportunity for a bright future by ensuring that tailored supports are readily available for those 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.”
More than 28,000 young people took part in the Youth Survey 2018, with more than 7,600 – or nearly three in 10 – young people agreeing that alcohol and/or drugs were a problem for their family and peers.