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.

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

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.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Straight-edge: Community Ac­tion Youth and Drugs fa­cil­i­ta­tor Richie Hard­core has wit­nessed many peo­ple dam­age their lives with drugs and al­co­hol over the years.

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