High school students in Canberra are being confronted with the dangers and sometimes life-altering consequences of alcohol under a new $100,000 education program being trialled in the territory.
Six Canberra schools were chosen to participate in the program which takes students into Canberra Hospital to talk to paramedics and emergency department staff as well as trauma survivors and their families.
In the ACT, people aged 16 to 24are more likely to drink at risky levels or engage in activities like texting while driving, making them more likely to end up in hospital, according to Dr Ailene Fitzgerald, ACT chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons trauma committee and director of Canberra Hospital's shock trauma service.
More than 100 Australians die and more than 3000 are hospitalised each week on average because of excessive alcohol consumption.
"One of the worst things I will ever have to do in my job is tell a young person's parents their child has been killed in a car accident or fallen off a balcony because they had too much alcohol," Dr Fitzgerald said.
Dr Fitzgerald said the program aimed to encourage adolescents to think about their choices when it came to alcohol.
"We know adolescents make up the majority of our major trauma and the ACT is no different," she said.
"The key message is to think about the choices you make, that there are risks and with risks there are long-term consequences."
Dr Fitzgerald said the program allowed students to hear about the "graphic" alcohol-related situations seen by medical staff.
Shannon Cameron, the executive teacher for health and physical education at Caroline Chisholm School, said the chance for students to hear and see the impacts of "poor decision making firsthand was extremely powerful". About 40 students from the school recently participated in the program.
"If this program makes even one of our students think twice, say no, or make even one smarter decision then it's been well worth it," she said.
Marist College students teacher Simon Rugala believes the program teaches students an important message. About 60 students from the school have taken part.
"The content that was given to the boys was great and was very much at their level. It gave the boys the opportunity to see how it (alcohol) affects different people," he said.
"We went through different wards, we talked to a patient as well, we had a view from the doctors and we were fortunate enough to have a parent whose son was affected in a major vehicle accident to come and talk to us."
The Prevent Alcohol and Risk Related Trauma in Youth program is being trialled in Canberra by ACT Health with the NRMA Road Safety Trust providing more than $100,000 to fund the pilot.
Health Minister Simon Corbell said school students were shown firsthand the risks and consequences of alcohol, with a particular focus on car crashes.
"We know when young people are under the influence of alcohol and drugs they are more at risk of being victims of crime, involved in road incidents as well as other injuries, accidental death and suicide," he said in a statement.
"The aim of the program is to reduce the incidence of alcohol and risk-related trauma in youth by providing the real-life clinical reality that paints a vivid picture for the students involved.
"By providing young people with information about incidents and the associated trauma, we are helping them recognise the situations that may cause them or their friends serious injury."
The program has been running in other states for the past decade and longer in other parts of the world. Funding for the ACT pilot ends in June and RACS is keen for it to be extended so the program can continue.
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