Helping to turn lives around
DAILY GRIND An infectious enthusiasm for life is part of Richie Hardcore’s tool kit for preventing harm caused to youth by drugs and alcohol. He sat down for coffee with reporter Danielle Street to share the secrets of his positive outlook.
Nestled within the multitude of vibrant tattoos on Richie Hardcore’s forearm is a punksong lyric written in thick black capital letters that reads: P.M.A ‘TIL I’M D.O.A.
PMA, or Positive Mental Attitude, sums up the philosophy Mr Hardcore brings to everything he does, including his work as a Community Action Youth and Drugs, or CAYD, facilitator for Auckland Council.
Mr Hardcore describes the Health Ministry initiative as a ‘‘fence at the top of the cliff’’, intended to reduce the harm to young people and families caused by illicit drugs and alcohol.
‘‘Off the top of my head, one under-25-year-old a week dies from alcohol-related causes, that’s not to say they drink so much they die, but it can be by car accidents or violence, which is a real shame,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s a real tragedy and loss of potential.’’
There are three CAYD units in the Auckland region, Central, South and West, each with its own location-specific objectives.
Within the Central Auckland unit, Mr Hardcore’s focus is mainly on tertiary institutions and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
One of the key outcomes of the CAYD initiative is creating informed community debate and discussion, with a fact-based approach rather than leaning on anecdotal evidence.
‘‘We try and underpin all our projects on research and not opinion, which I think gives it a great strength,’’ Mr Hardcore says. ‘‘We don’t preach abstinence because abstinence is not something we want people to do.
‘‘Look at prohibition – that didn’t work in Chicago. Al Capone was making a lot of money out of alcohol. And it’s the same with drugs.’’
Mr Hardcore admits growing up with an alcoholic father gave him a negative perception of alcohol and he never really got into the drinking culture. For the last five years he has identified as ‘‘straightedge’’, meaning he does not drink alcohol or take drugs.
‘‘It’s an interesting coalescence that I grew up in the hardcore punk-rock culture, where I was introduced to the concept of straight-edge and now here I am as an adult, working in the field,’’ he says. ‘‘I don’t know whether it’s cliched or cool that my personal values marry with my employment.’’
It was in the punk scene that Mr Hardcore heard the phrase PMA, by Washington DC group Bad Brains.
‘‘I grew up as a pretty angry and sad kid, and when I got into that kind of music I found it was a positive way to channel that. They sing about so much affirmation and use that energy that comes from being disaffected for something good.
‘‘But for me PMA isn’t pretending to be happy, it’s about finding positive ways to deal with the hardships life can throw us, and for me it’s not drugs and alcohol.’’
Mr Hardcore employs a semi-public persona to discuss the issues dear to his heart.
He is active on social media, hosts a radio show on 95bFM and presents a segment called PMA All Day on TVNZ’s youth channel, U.
‘‘I try and use that as a cool way to talk about a subject that is often misrepresented as your parents telling you what to do,’’ he says.
Straight-edge: Community Action Youth and Drugs facilitator Richie Hardcore has witnessed many people damage their lives with drugs and alcohol over the years.