Healthy Lives Healthy Futures

binge 1

‘Healthy Lives, Healthy Futures: alcohol education for young people’ is a short animation about the dangers of binge drinking put together for MCWH and Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre.
Watch it here!

Youth: it’s the best time of your life.  But is this an accurate aphorism for today’s youth?  They may be considered the most plugged-in and tech-savvy, but today’s youth are more likely than previous generations to be overweight or obese and Australia’s youth unemployment rate is at its post-GFC highest (17% and as high as 40% in the most disadvantaged suburbs). If you thought being on the $35-a-day Newstart allowance was dire, for young jobseekers the Youth Allowance dictates you get by on $29 a day.  And even if you’re lucky enough to finish a university education, you can expect to begin your young adult life with an average HECS debt of $15,000.

For the most part, however, keeping healthy, getting a good education and securing a well-paid job are just things parents nag their children about.  When you’re young, you’re too preoccupied conforming to a whole range of ideals: good looks; the right clothes; cool mobile; the in-crowd; and gaining social media popularity.  In the age of the 24-hour news cycle where the latest trend can be considered ‘yesterday’ today, it’s certainly no easy feat. If you’re from an immigrant and refugee background, trying to keep up with your peer group is not the only challenge.

As any first or second generation migrant child will attest, your growing-up years are at the mercy of your family and your culture (sometimes, it feels like your culture is your family).  Negotiations with parents about curfews, sleep-overs, sexuality, gender roles, music-listening and television-viewing are always at risk of being reduced to parental proclamations of ‘us’ and ‘them’.  Especially for those who are newly arrived, young people are still trying, literally, to work out where they fit in the world.  The constant juggling required to live up to the ideals dictated by peer groups and the mass media in relation to parents’ cultural expectations can exacerbate young people’s feelings of exclusion and isolation.  Financial problems and dislocation from the community can also place additional strain on many immigrant and refugee youth who are living in Australia without parents or guardians.

These specific issues present challenges and opportunities for the education and promotion of health and wellbeing amongst young people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds.  Individuals from immigrant and refugee communities of all ages struggle to access accurate and culturally relevant information and resources about relevant youth issues such as cyber-bullying, healthy body image, and alcohol-related harms.  That’s why multifaceted and flexible approaches are required to improve the health literacy of young people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds.  It’s also essential that the approach explicitly acknowledges the ways in which young people need to deal with various and competing forms of gendered and cultural expectations.

Generational arguments are often defined by stereotypes and, in the case of Gen Y, they have often been typecast as either selfish narcissists or selfless revolutionaries.  Of course, as with all generalisations, the truth is often found somewhere in-between.  Moving beyond the stereotypes to meaningfully engage with young people is the real challenge for health educators.

The aptly-named Healthy Living, Healthy Futures Project conducted by MCWH and Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre is rising to the challenge. Budding health revolutionaries can find out more about the project here or watch our fantastic new animation about the dangers of binge drinking here.