The Ministry of Health is advocating that citizens listen first as an initiative to increase support for prevention of drug use.
‘Listen First’, an initiative of the United Nations Office on drugs and crime, is based on science and an effective investment in the well-being of children and youth, their families and their communities.
This initiative has been adopted by the Ministry of Health’s National Drug Abuse Prevention Unit as part of Drug Awareness Month, observed annually in January as part of the Unit’s efforts at raising awareness on the harmful effects of drugs.
In an address to commemorate Drug Awareness Month, acting Minister for Health, Ivor Stephenson said on Wednesday 11 January 2017, in using the theme ‘Listen First’ they are hoping to raise the awareness of drug abuse prevention with the very simple concept of listening.
Stephenson said listening encourages a holistic and science-based approach to drug prevention and is the bridge between their activities and steps to help young people and students grow healthy and safe.
“Listening is the approach that brings a strong bond between children and parents. Studies have shown that the children of parents that have a warm parenting style and know where their children are, and what they are doing are five times less likely to use drugs; they are 20% less likely to use marijuana,” Stephenson informed.
He encouraged parents to understand the importance of listening to their children as it leads to improved family relationships, family cohesion and child pro-social behavior.
“Praise your child for at least one thing he/she is doing right. There is one for sure, even if it may be small. Spending even small amount of time each day, giving your child complete attention can really help. Ask your child what you want to know. Ask questions in context with; where he /she will be, for how long and with whom he will be doing what,” Stephenson said.
He further encouraged parents to get involved in prevention programmes at school, church and the community as it has been shown that taking part in prevention programmes have made parents become better at parenting and their children behave and perform better at school.
He also asked teachers to listen to students as it improves engagement of the child.
He said the first step towards a strong bond between children and teachers is listening with empathy and care.
“When teachers listen first, children who are in school and feel a sense of belonging are less vulnerable to risky behaviors and drug abuse. When teachers listen first, it improves engagement of the child in the classroom and increases academic success of the child,” Stephenson further noted.
Moreover, he challenged all stakeholders to do everything possible “to keep children in school, alert, focused and drug free by ‘listening first’ to them since this is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe”.
A number of activities have been planned to commemorate Drug Awareness month and these include Anti-Drug Rallies, Anti- Drug Exhibitions, a church service and a Basketball competition.