JCCV Drug and Alcohol Forum sees family and relationships as critical

April 12, 2016 by David Marlow
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The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) has held a Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Forum in order to seek direction on the most effective measures to reduce drug and alcohol abuse in the Jewish community, especially amongst young people.

The Forum was part of JCCV’s Youth Alcohol Project.

Jennifer Huppert addresses the conference

Jennifer Huppert addresses the forum

The expert panel at the Forum included Dr Stefan Gruenert, CEO of Odyssey House, Nathan Kotler, Psychologist and Family Therapist, and Dr Robert Gocentas, Emergency Physician at the Alfred Emergency and Trauma Centre. The panel discussion was moderated by JCCV President Jennifer Huppert.

Participants in the Forum were representatives from JCCV affiliates, including Jewish Care, Australian Jewish Psychologists, Progressive Judaism Victoria, Jewish day schools, NCJWA and youth groups. Other attendees included the Australian Drug Foundation, Glen Eira Council, social workers and concerned parents.

Dr Gruenert provided an overview of drug usage patterns, as well as some best practice solutions from overseas. He highlighted the importance of social and societal environment as key factors in preventing drug problems. Dr Gruenert stressed the importance of positive social environments, supportive and non-judgemental family life and a supportive community. He warned that parents must be aware that they are the model of drug usage adopted by their children.

Mr Kotler highlighted that how parents deal with anxiety and anger is the model from which their children learn. Calm parenting was very important. This is particularly a problem in the Jewish community where Holocaust experience has ramifications through the generations. He said it was very important that young people learn to cope with relationships and stress.

“Students need to learn emotional literacy” said Mr Kotler. “Children need to feel emotionally safe and parents may need to find appropriate support.”

Dr Gocentas presented a number of case studies from drug and alcohol related trauma situations at the Alfred, noting that drugs and alcohol are a factor in 25% of all trauma patients presenting at the Alfred. He said experience highlighted the need for young people to learn how to deal with peer group pressure, and clearly “older adults do not always model ideal behaviour”.

Ms Huppert said the Forum was the start of an ongoing process by the JCCV to address alcohol and drug issues, and would provide valuable input in extending the Youth Alcohol Project into the area of drug abuse prevention.

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