Published: 27 July 2019
Dr Jade Kua, SANA President,
Mr Chng Hwee Hong, Chairman SCORE,
Ms Shie Yong Lee, Deputy Commissioner, Singapore Prison Service,
Members of the SANA Board of Management,
Ladies and Gentleman
1. I am delighted to be here today and to see so many of our community partners, including SANA’s Volunteers, students and teachers from schools and institutes of higher learning; and CARE Network agencies, participating in this second run of SANA’s Rise Above Campaign.
2. The objective of the Rise Above Campaign is to achieve a greater outreach to youths on the harms of drugs.
3. The initiatives in this campaign focus on ground-up preventive drug education (PDE) efforts to promote participation and advocacy, against drug abuse.
4. SANA and its partners have worked very hard for the past month, where students and Peer Leaders put together a whole series of events and activities to spread the anti-drug message. The campaign is only possible because of the efforts of each and every one of you here.
5. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for the strong support and commitment you have pledged to this important cause.
Youth Drug Abuse and Perceptions towards Drug Abuse
6. In recent years, there has been a clear and significant shift in global perceptions towards drugs and drug abuse. More countries around the world are adopting or considering to adopt liberal drug policies, such as legalising drugs and decriminalising drug abuse. There is also a rapidly growing volume of content available and shared on the internet, which misinforms and even promotes myths about drugs.
7. The misinformation on the internet has affected the way young people perceive drugs and their harm, which can exact a high cost on our society. In 2018, 4 out of 10 drug abusers arrested were below the age of 30.Almost 7 out of 10 new drug abusers arrested were below the age of 30. A recent Public Perception Survey on Drugs conducted by MHA found that youths generally held a more liberal view on drugs, particularly on cannabis.
8. These are worrying trends as we are talking about the future of our nation.
9. I am particularly concerned about the misconceptions and increasingly liberal attitudes towards cannabis. There are many reports out there saying that cannabis is not harmful and that it has medical benefits. However, these reports are not backed by robust scientific evidence. They are mostly sponsored by activists of cannabis legalisation and companies who wish to make money through cannabis.
10. The truth is that cannabis is harmful and addictive.
11. Let us look at some of the evidence. A report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) found that cannabis use has adverse impacts on public health, leading to effects such as panic attacks, stroke and an increased risk of cancer. Another report by the Lancet Psychiatry Journal found that daily use of high potency cannabis is linked to greater rates of psychosis. It is important that we actively debunk the myths that are being propagated out there, particularly pertaining to cannabis in the current climate, and act as positive spheres of influence to those around us.
Community-led Preventive Drug Education and Advocacy
12. An effective way to do this is through engaging youths in conversations relating to drugs and drug abuse.
13. I am encouraged to know that 10 schools, institutions of higher learning and groups have participated in this year’s Rise Above Campaign through some very meaningful anti-drug projects. The project contributed by ITE Central titled #YourLifeIsInYourHands is an outreach programme organised in a carnival-like setting, which aims to raise awareness among students on the dangers of drug abuse, through games and dance performances. I was told that SANA’s Peer Leaders also joined the carnival to share their recovery journey with the ITE students. Students from the School of Design of Temasek Polytechnic developed an interactive card game to promote a healthy lifestyle and raise awareness about the harms associated with drug abuse.
14. I look forward to the showcase of the student projects after this.
15. Apart from the campaign initiatives, SANA also has a series of initiatives throughout the year.
16. One example is SANA’s Badge Scheme. SANA works closely with schools and engages more than 5,000 secondary school students every year in important conversations on drugs and drugs abuse. This includes the sharing of information on illegal drugs, the harmful health and social effects of drug abuse, and how to lead healthy lifestyles without relying on drugs.
Key Announcement: S.T.E.A.D.Y Programme
17. I am happy to announce that SANA has developed a new programme for at-risk youths. The S.T.E.A.D.Y. programme, or ‘STrengthening and Enhancing the Ability of Decision-making in Youths’ programme, targets decision-making in at-risk youth, helping them to make the right decisions and to reject drugs.
18. The objectives of S.T.E.A.D.Y. are, firstly, to increase youth’s understanding on how decisions are made; secondly, to assist youths to identify the influential factors which affect their decision-making; and thirdly, to enhance youth’s awareness of their current risky behaviours in relation to achieving their goals or valued outcomes.
19. SANA conducted a pilot of the programme in 3 schools last year and received positive feedback.
20. Youths who participated in the programme shared that they have increased self-awareness of their own decision-making process and were confident to make better decisions in future.
21. SANA has conducted a train-the-trainers session involving MOE school counsellors and will be rolling out the programme to more schools in the coming months.
Community Involvement in the Recovery of Former Drug Abusers
22. Apart from the preventive drug education, SANA works very closely with the community to provide support to former drug abusers on their recovery journey. This is where the para-counsellors, befrienders and religious volunteers come in.This year, SANA will introduce a befriending programme targeted at both in-care and aftercare phases as part of the Prisons’ Throughcare Volunteer Framework (TVF) Befriending programme. The pilot will commence in the second half of this year. SANA befrienders will be reaching out to close to 30 inmates from the Drug Rehabilitation Centre over 10 weekly sessions, imparting knowledge and information to help with the inmates’ reintegration. The befrienders will continue to assist the inmates after their release by helping them to access the various recovery programmes and services at the SANA Step-Up Centres.
23. I also want to acknowledge and thank our sixty-four Peer Leaders – SANA’s clients who “pay it forward” and play a key part in SANA’s recovery programmes. It is important that you share your recovery experience and help the younger clients overcome their challenges by co-facilitating peer recovery support groups and reaching out to at-risk groups in the community for preventive drug education.
24. Let me share the story of Ryzal, who became a SANA Peer Leader in Oct 2018. Ryzal had been in and out of Prisons since his 20s for various drug offences. However, with his perseverance, he managed to turn his life around after his release in 2013. In Prisons, he managed to catch up on his studies, and did very well for his ‘O’ levels. He even coined his own self-motivation acronym – F.A.I.T.H. which stood for Fulfilment, Aspiration, Integrity, Tenacity and Humanity. This helped him overcome the temptations and personal challenges after his release, and managed to stay on the path of recovery. After his release, he managed to rebuild his career and family successfully. Ryzal wanted to give back to the community and help other people in recovery like him, which is why he volunteered as a SANA Peer Leader, to share his recovery journey with younger SANA clients and help them overcome their challenges during regular SANA peer recovery support group sessions. Ryzal also took up a part-time Advanced Certificate in Social Services. SANA saw Ryzal’s passion to help others, and he is now part of the SANA family, as a full-time Social Work Assistant.
25. About 2 weeks ago, I also had the honour to announce the official opening of the Satellite Step-up Centre at Taman Jurong. I would like to commend SANA for making their programmes and services more accessible for its clients and their family members. I am heartened to hear that the Centre has seen close to 90 clients walking in to seek help in the first few months since its set up, even before the official opening. This is a great testament that SANA is doing the right thing.
26. To conclude, SANA has been and will continue to be an important partner in our fight against drugs. SANA’s Rise Above Campaign has provided a platform for community partners to collaborate in preventive drug education. I am confident that SANA will continue to strengthen its community partnership to co-create effective solutions so as to achieve our aspirations of a drug-free society. I wish you success in today’s event.
27. Thank you.