Parents warned of dangers of drinking

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Parents of youngsters in St Helens are being warned of the risk involved with drinking alcohol at a young age.

As summer approaches and schools break up, many local young people are looking forward to sunshine and longer days.

But families in St Helens are being asked to ensure that their young people do not put themselves at risk of harm through drinking alcohol.

From local surveys undertaken, young people today are saying that they are drinking less than those of ten years ago but for many who do choose to drink alcohol, they are drinking to excess, causing harm to themselves or others.

Although alcohol use is often regarded as a “rite of passage”, information from Chief Medical Officers is that drinking at an early age can lead to a number of health and developmental concerns and that an alcohol-free childhood is the best option.

Coun Jeanine Bell, cabinet member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “Young people are particularly at risk from alcohol related harm because their bodies and brains are still developing and it is harder to make safe, sensible choices if you are drunk.

“Although the number of alcohol related admissions to hospital for under 18s has fallen significantly over recent years, they still remain above the national average, showing a high level of binge drinking by a number of young people – making this a real concern for the borough.

“There are a number of local initiatives to address teenage drinking, for example a series of high quality education programmes within schools, colleges and youth settings across the borough, and strong links with Whiston Hospital to ensure that young people who attend hospital, get the support that they need.

“However, much more is needed to challenge a culture in which drinking excessively is seen to be the norm. Families, as well as services, have an important role to play in setting an example and talking to young people about their concerns and suggesting ways in which they can respond to peer pressure or cope with difficult situations.”

In addition, the council has been advocating the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) message of ‘don’t walk away’, which encourages young people to look after their friends and if required, call 999 for an ambulance.

Parents or family members can contact the YPDAAT Service (for young people up to the age of 19) for advice. Young people can also self-refer (01744 675605). The service also has a website that features information for parents/carers (www.sthelens.gov.uk/ypdaat) and is on social media (www.facebook.com/yazsthelens).