I’ve been attending the 6th International Conference on Drugs and Young People – it’s been fantastic. I’ve been especially pleased with the focus on meaningful participation of young people in research, a topic that I’ve been passionate about for a while now. It’s about human rights, and really, it does make sense that young people would be the experts on what they want!
Yesterday I discovered the existence of a new research centre in Brisbane called the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse. Angela White and her colleagues presented their experiences on engaging young people in research: what worked and what didn’t, and how it actually fed into the development of their materials, including harm reduction leaflets and an alcohol monitoring iPhone app.
It is impressive to me that they actually have meaningful engagement as a goal in their organisational mandate, something that is probably a first for an AOD research organisation, at least in Australia if not further afield.
- young people want organisations to act professionally – don’t use ‘young people slang’ to try and look ‘cool’
- young people are suspicious of organisations wanting to preach to them about drugs – avoid this!
- young people enjoyed being consulted if done so respectfully
- they need to see the recommendations are acted upon!
- one size does not fit all – eg. university students have different opinions and needs to youth service users
I asked Caroline Salom whether any young people were concerned about the term ‘substance abuse’ being in the title of the organisation. My experience moderating Bluelight is that the drug users there tend to be less trusting of an organisation that has embedded in its name an assumption about drug use being inherrent wrong. Caroline was not sure whether this had been an issue for the young people they spoke to. Perhaps when you meet in person (unlike on Bluelight, an online forum) these things are less of an issue when establishing trust.