Knowl­edge is key to break­ing bad

Campaspe News - - NEWS -

SCHOOL cap­tain, a net­ball and ten­nis star, out­stand­ing aca­demic and Young Ci­ti­zen of the Year. Bry­die Law­ford could have been any­thing she wanted.

But the for­mer Rochester Se­condary Col­lege stu­dent, who had the world at her feet, in­stead chose to de­vote her time help­ing those in it who needed it most. She knows knowl­edge is power. It’s why she has worked so hard to help others, par­tic­u­larly those with drug and al­co­hol prob­lems. To­day that’s the pur­pose of the 30-yearold’s job as as­sis­tant man­ager at Mel­bourne’s Youth Sup­port and Ad­vo­cacy Ser­vice for peo­ple be­tween 12-21 deal­ing with those is­sues.

She wants her for­mer home­town to know there’s a rea­son why peo­ple turn to these sub­stances and that there are plenty of ways to help them — none of which in­clude iso­la­tion and judge­ment.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing in 2004, Bry­die moved to the ‘big city’.

‘‘I know it sounds corny, but it was al­ways a dream of mine to help peo­ple who were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing hard­ship or dis­ad­van­tage,’’ she said.

‘‘I can talk the leg off a chair, so a Bach­e­lor of So­cial Sci­ence seemed like the ob­vi­ous choice.

‘‘I ma­jored in youth work and coun­selling and quickly re­alised my pas­sion was to work with young peo­ple.’’

For years Bry­die was a case worker for home­less youth, help­ing women in cri­sis, many of whom were flee­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

‘‘I was quick to learn home­less­ness does not hap­pen in iso­la­tion – the young peo­ple I was work­ing with were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing com­plex is­sues such as poor men­tal and phys­i­cal health, eco­nomic hard­ship, le­gal is­sues, fam­ily break­down, iso­la­tion, past and on­go­ing sex­ual and phys­i­cal vi­o­lence and the on­go­ing ef­fects of trauma,’’ she said.

‘‘An over­whelm­ing num­ber of young peo­ple had dis­closed a long his­tory of trauma.’’

While she worked with the Oa­sis Youth Sup­port Net­work in Sydney, Bry­die helped young peo­ple, peo­ple her own age, deal­ing with aban­don­ment and ne­glect, sex­ual and phys­i­cal abuse or who were the col­lat­eral dam­age of fam­ily vi­o­lence.

‘‘Many of these young peo­ple had missed out on a safe and nur­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment as a child, and thus went with­out pos­i­tive role mod­els and sup­port,’’ she said.

‘‘They used drugs and al­co­hol to cope.’’

The most en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of her life, she said, was a six-week place­ment in East Arn­hem Land, right at the top of the North­ern Ter­ri­tory.

‘‘A dear friend of mine (Matthew Badura from Echuca) and I were run­ning a youth, sport and recreation pro­gram for the Yol­ngu kids on an is­land called Milingimbi, which is a re­mote Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity,’’ she said.

‘‘We’d run footy and bas­ket­ball, fish­ing in croc in­fested wa­ters, girls trips into the bush where we'd swim in the bil­l­abong, art and of course, a disco, as a way to com­bat bore­dom and pro­vide a safe space for young peo­ple to hang out.

‘‘It was a beau­ti­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, but it was also ex­tremely iso­lat­ing and heart-wrench­ing.

‘‘The poverty is un­be­liev­able, the in­equal­ity still to this day, makes me feel sick in my stom­ach. But still, some­how, amongst it all there is some­thing re­fresh­ing about the slow, sim­ple way in which Yol­ngu life flows.

‘‘There is re­silience in that com­mu­nity. But, most im­por­tantly, dur­ing this ex­pe­ri­ence I learnt the dev­as­tat­ing im­pact of in­ter­gen­er­a­tion-trauma on a com­mu­nity.’’

In the 2013 Vic­to­rian cen­sus of ‘young peo­ple and al­co­hol and other drugs’ found even prior to be­gin­ning sub­stance use, young peo­ple had ex­pe­ri­enced con­sid­er­able dis­ad­van­tage that al­most cer­tainly con­trib­uted to their later drug use.

More than two thirds of cen­sus par­tic­i­pants had a his­tory of child­hood abuse and/or ne­glect, al­most 40 per cent had been in­volved in the state care and pro­tec­tion sys­tem, few had com­pleted se­condary ed­u­ca­tion, and most had ex­pe­ri­enced men­tal health is­sues.

‘‘Be­ing in en­vi­ron­ments where sub­stance abuse is nor­malised also greatly in­creases the like­li­hood of a young per­son de­vel­op­ing a sub­stance abuse prob­lem,’’ Bry­die said.

‘‘This com­plex trauma, left with­out sup­port or care, is ex­tremely detri­men­tal to a per­son’s well­be­ing.

‘‘Most young peo­ple who present to drug and al­co­hol ser­vices ex­plain that they use drugs ‘to stop feel­ing’ or ‘to stop think­ing’ – a pain-re­liev­ing emo­tional anaes­thetic.

‘‘Of­ten drugs are the only form of pain re­lief they can ac­cess.

‘‘Drug and al­co­hol use al­ways has a pur­pose or a func­tion, and it im­por­tant to look at what the func­tion is of a drug use in some­one’s life, in or­der to un­der­stand how to best pro­vide help or sup­port to that per­son.’’

Now, Bry­die does that daily at her res­i­den­tial with­drawal unit in Fitzroy, Mel­bourne. YSAS ex­ists to di­rectly sup­port and pro­vide ad­vo­cacy for these young peo­ple.

It’s there Bry­die fo­cuses on the func­tion of a drug (alle­vi­at­ing bore­dom, so­cial bond­ing, es­cap­ing re­al­ity) and helps re­place that with ‘pro­tec­tive fac­tors’.

‘‘A pro­tec­tive fac­tor for lots of young peo­ple is sim­ply some­one in their life who be­lieves in them, and sees past their be­hav­iour and sup­ports them through their tough time/s,’’ Bry­die said.

‘‘Sup­port­ing a young per­son to iden­tify their own cop­ing strate­gies and re­flect­ing on how these strate­gies have worked in the past and now, can help a young per­son plan for their fu­ture.

‘‘It’s a re­ally cool, ther­a­peu­tic and re­lax­ing space to en­gage in drug ed­u­ca­tion, goal set­ting and in­di­vid­u­alised care plans, healthy eat­ing, sleep hy­giene, health and fit­ness and in­ten­sive sup­port with any psy­choso­cial is­sues.’’

She said the aim was for peo­ple to have ‘‘as much knowl­edge as pos­si­ble’’ so they can make in­formed choices in their lives.

‘‘We also want com­mu­ni­ties to know about drug use, so that we can break down the so­cial stigma and pro­vide sup­port for those peo­ple when they need it the most,’’ she said.

‘‘I say let’s talk to young peo­ple about drugs and al­co­hol. It’s best for young peo­ple to feel like they can ask ques­tions, and, most im­por­tantly, ask for help. An open di­a­logue about drugs is es­sen­tial.’’

She said it was vi­tal to help youth re­frame sub­stance use as a way to cope at a time of trauma and dis­tress, and in­stead en­cour­age them to de­velop new strate­gies like go­ing for a walk or call­ing a friend.

‘‘It’s im­por­tant to link young peo­ple with ap­pro­pri­ate pro­fes­sional sup­port. Whether it’s the lo­cal school coun­sel­lor, doc­tor or a drug and al­co­hol ser­vice in a town nearby,’’ she said.

‘‘Sup­port to the young per­son and to the fam­ily and friends is paramount.

Bry­die hopes shar­ing her story will help en­lighten the com­mu­nity. She said it’s im­por­tant to work to­gether, share in­for­ma­tion and of­fer sup­port.

‘‘Be­cause at the end of the day, these young peo­ple need not only the sup­port of an amaz­ing ser­vice such as YSAS, they need us, as mums, dads, sis­ters, aun­ties, friends, neigh­bours and coaches, to stand up and be there and hold hope and light for them so they see ahead and walk in the di­rec­tion they choose,’’ she said.

‘‘Young peo­ple are smart, strong and re­silient, and its heart break­ing to think young peo­ple feel like drugs and al­co­hol are the best or only way of man­ag­ing those over­whelm­ing emo­tions and feel­ings,’’ she said.

‘‘But what truly breaks my heart, it to think that they have to do it alone.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.