Youths should engage in drug-free conversations, take steps to protect themselves and loved ones from drug abuse
Three short films from the ‘What’s Your Fix?’ Youth Film Programme contest were also screened during the dialogue event.
Three drug-related short films produced by local filmmakers were screened for the first time on last week as part of a youth dialogue session at *SCAPE The Treetop.
Organised by the National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA), What’s Your Fix? Presents: Youth Film Dialogue was attended by over 100 youth participants, with the dialogue topics revolving around drug abuse and drug-free advocacy.
The event also marked the end of NCADA’s year-long media campaign What’s Your Fix?. The three short films are the winning submissions of the campaign’s Youth Film Programme contest.
Participants were able to preview the three short films, as well as partake in a open dialogue session featuring panellists like NCADA council member Ravindran Nagalingam, social enterprise Architects of Life Founder-Chairman Glenn Lim, and social media influencers Simon Khung, Luke Chan and Jeynelle Ng.
Questions raised during this session were related to youths’ sentiments on drug use, its influence on loved ones, and anti-drug advocacy.
Here are four takeaways from the dialogue:
1. Most abusers believe that drugs can them deal with stress or serve as a form of escapism
During the open dialogue session, a question was asked about why people are willing to try drugs, despite knowing the risks.
Mr Ravindran shared how the usual reason is due to stress and how some would first seek out the substances as a means to “cope” after toughing it out in one’s school, work, or home environment.
While there are healthier ways to deal with stress, some turn to smoking and later illegal drugs – which can come in the form of cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin, among others – as a more extreme stress relief outlet. Though Mr Ravindran thinks that this solution is only temporary.
“It (taking drugs) is pushing away the problem, which (will) manifest itself in so many different ways later on,” he said. He added that getting high does not immediately eliminate stress, for it may persist or worsen even after consistent drug usage.
For other drug abusers, drugs are a form of escapism. After facing tough situations in school, work or in relationships, taking drugs allows them to numb and momentarily escape from reality.
Although they are aware of drugs’ harmful effects and Singapore’s stance on them, some feel that taking them is the only way to “cope”.
2. Although youths are aware of drugs’ harmful effects, some are hesitant to stop friends from taking them
During a pre-dialogue interactive activity, youth participants were asked whether they would trust that a friend or family member taking drugs knows what they are doing, and if participants would “mind their own business”.
A large majority said no. When asked why this is so, one youth participant explained that most of society is knowledgeable of the dangers of drugs. In spite of wanting to trust his friends or family members on their decisions, things as harmful as addictive substances should not be easily dismissed.
Another youth participant also shares this sentiment, though she may hesitate to object to someone’s decisions to take drugs as it “depends on how close they are”.
To her, the less close the relationship is, the more unknowing she would be on how the drug user would react should she try to step up against their actions. Other factors that have to be taken into consideration include how her actions will jeopardise the relationship, and whether she is in a position to object.
In response to their concerns, Simon – who is a recovering addict – noted how trying to stop others from taking drugs seems difficult. It can be seen as a form of “bao toh” (Hokkien for backstabbing) as the consequences of drug use are not to be taken lightly in Singapore.
Still, when taking into account the pro’s and con’s of reporting a loved one for drug abuse, he said that he would do what is necessary to stop them from harming themselves further.
3. Many youths think they would have a hard time saying no to drugs if peer pressured
Among the many drug-related questions raised during the open dialogue session, a few of them focused on situations where drug usage is “normalised”. This means that one’s social circle or immediate environment regularly takes substances, and the community is less discriminatory towards drug consumption.
It is in these settings where youth participants would find it more challenging to reject trying drugs, out of seeing a need to socially conform or being peer pressured to consume the addictive substances.
“Majority would be taking drugs, so it would then come to whether or not I should follow them and fall under peer pressure,” one participant responded.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, others would stand firmly against consuming drugs, regardless of the setting and who is offering them.
While fewer in number, these youth participants would rather stick close to their personal moral code and beliefs instead of breaking under social pressure to “follow the flow”.
When concluding the question, the host Isaac shared his thoughts on the scenario, “There’s some form of pressure to abide by the increasing norm, and to not be seen as a party pooper or chickening out.”
“Instead of that, we must help to build a culture that says no (to drugs). We should take a step (against drug abuse).”
4. While conversations about drug use are hard to start, creating content about such topics may help youths and the community ease into them
When it comes to airing out one’s drug use situation, many youths find it hard to open up due to there being a lack of safe spaces for them to do so.
By creating content advocating for a drug-free cause in hopes of starting up drug-related conversations, members of the community can lower their stigma and better ease into speaking about such topics with youths and drug users. This is a sentiment that the youth filmmakers behind the drug-related short films mutually share.
The three films screened at the event – Lost Control by Jauden Soh, Of a Different Breed by Tong Khon Mun, and Keep A Lookout For Me by Zachary Yap – aim to do just that. Each covers issues pertaining to drug abuse, its impact and what youths can do when their loved ones are experimenting with such substances.
Lost Control imagines a Singapore where drug abuse and its consumption is normalised among PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians). It explores how families, especially children, are affected when parents in such industries indulge in recreational drug use.
Of a Different Breed dives into the “misconception of being able to indulge in recreational drug abuse in a controlled manner”. In this film, a young adult in his office’s marketing department is pressured by his colleagues to try drugs, and continues to take them to “fit in” until it starts affecting his home life and close friendships.
Keep A Lookout For Me is an audio visual diary-style film based on a true incident. It details a boy’s recollection of his best friend, who passed on due to a drug overdose.