At Mentor, our approach is about helping young people stay safe around alcohol and other drugs. We do this by raising awareness about the risks of use and empowering young people with the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the challenging situations that can arise from it when it occurs. For us, prevention is therefore about enabling young people to live harm free lives, while supporting them to develop self-worth, confidence and faith in their own future.
The economic and social costs of the harms that can arise from substance use are huge. Public Health England estimates that the costs of alcohol related harm in England amount to £21.5bn and harm from illicit drug use costs £10.7bn. But at Mentor, we also count the cost of harm in the impact it has on a child’s future and potential. We work, therefore, towards supporting children across the UK to take their future into their own hands.
Because this is our goal, we help young people learn how to make healthy choices given the realities they face day-to-day. We know from listening to young people that they face any number of challenges on the way to adulthood, including how to deal with alcohol and other drugs. The poorer the community they come from the bigger these challenges become. Because we work from evidence, we also know that zero-tolerance approaches and those that employ fear tactics do not work. More than this, they stigmatise the most vulnerable; young people we’ve spoken to have been clear about this.
No magic bullet can completely ‘prevent’ young people’s exposure to alcohol and other drugs or ensure they will never try them. What we can do is provide young people with guidance that works and support them with experiences that help them see their future in a new light. Our work engages young people where they live their lives, with the people closest to them: in their communities, families and schools.