Interactive session Addresses Substance Abuse and Mental Health Challenges in local youth
Trying alcohol, marijuana, drugs, and other substances like nicotine represent a rite of passage for many young people growing up. Some may try it once or a few times and then walk away while others may become addicted leading to substance abuse. These vices do not follow boundaries of religious or cultural identities. Therefore, it is important, for both parents and youth, to discuss the effects different substances may have on and be aware of the signs of substance abuse and how to seek treatment. Given the prevalence of substance abuse amongst youth in Lower Mainland and the recent legalization of marijuana in Canada, a learning event on the topic of substance abuse for both parents and youth was held on October at Strawberry Hill Library in Surrey. The event was organized by a small groups of volunteers from diverse professional backgrounds who connected on the Facebook group “Pakistani in Vancouver” last year and have since been organizing events for newcomers in BC. Ms. Anjum Khan opened the event with the introduction of the topic and the speakers. Ms. anbka Mailk, administrator of the Facebook group “Pakistani in Vancouver” briefly described the purpose of various events. This was followed by recitation of holy Quran by young Farwah Arslan. The next part of the program consisted of three amazing speakers on the topic of substance abuse and mental health and was conducted by Ms. Misbah Naseer. The first speaker was Dr. Mah-i-Laqa Rafiq who presented the current statistics about substance abuse within Lower Mainland. She shared some eye-opening facts about high percentages of youth who try marijuana at ages as young as . She touched upon the various reasons why someone may be inclined to try various substances and how families can educate and support the youth. The next speaker was Ms. Kiran Toor who is the Vice President of Kids Play Foundation which IS a non profit organization working towards keeping kids away from the lifestyle of drugs, gangs, and violence. She described the various activities organized by KidsPlay and shared her experiences working with at-risk youth. She encouraged every youth in the audience to volunteer and get involved with the organized. The last speaker of the day was Kabir Qurban who shared his personal perspective about mental health challenges faced by immigrant youth. Kabir lightened up the mood with anecdotes and personal experiences, helping everyone relate to this very serious topic often treated as a taboo. Afterwards, a question and answer session was held. Dr. Babra Rana, a psychiatrist and Ms. Sonia Andhi, a youth counselor also participated in the discussion and shared their insight on the topic. A short quiz with prizes was then held to test the knowledge of the youth and everyone actively participated in it. Ms. Rahila Jibril wrapped up the event thanking all the attendees and organizers including those working tirelessly behind the scene including Humaira Imtiaz, Yasera Anwar, Amira Azam, Anjum Rafiq. Overall, the event was a huge success as a high number of youth were in attendance and were fully engaged in all the talks. The event was made possible with the generous support the neighbourhood small grant by Vancouver Foundation and the organizers want to thank Solo Pizza for their support.