Minister Wilson (centre) with (from l to r) Susan Paynter of PRIDE Bermuda, Nadine Lapsley Dyer of PRIDE Bermuda and Judith Burgess Executive Director of PRIDE Bermuda. *Photo supplied
Minister Wilson (centre) with (from l to r) Susan Paynter of PRIDE Bermuda, Nadine Lapsley Dyer of PRIDE Bermuda and Judith Burgess Executive Director of PRIDE Bermuda. *Photo supplied

Good Afternoon,

I am extremely pleased to be here with the Executive Director of PRIDE Bermuda, Mrs. Judith Burgess to support their upcoming Red Ribbon drug awareness Campaign.

For 26 years, PRIDE Bermuda has gone about the steady and important business of ensuring that our young people were made aware of the perils of drug abuse.

And today we are here to mark this year’s milestone of PRIDE Bermuda’s celebration of 15 years of hosting anti drug campaigns aimed at getting the community involved in their efforts to deter our children from engaging in drug activity.

This Wednesday, PRIDE Bermuda is kicking off their Annual Red Ribbon Campaign, with a lunch at the Queen Elizabeth Park – formerly known as Par la Ville Park.

Their theme this year is “Bermuda – Growing Stronger – Drug Free” and the Ministry of Justice wholeheartedly throws its support behind this event.

Ladies and gentlemen, the advocacy of drug awareness is something that this Ministry takes very seriously.

As the Minister responsible for such areas as the Department of Corrections, the Department of National Drug Control, the Department of Court Services, and the Parole Board, I see on a regular basis the effects and the end results of what a lifetime of substance abuse can have on individuals in our community.

That’s why the work that PRIDE Bermuda does year in and year out is so critical for our young people. They recognise that we have to reach and teach our children at a young age so that they are not pressured or influenced into engaging in drug and alcohol use.

And the Ministry of Justice is proud to support their efforts. 

You will recall that this past April, I announced the findings of the Third National School Survey on Drug Consumption and Health among middle and senior school students.

Conducted last year this time, from October 10th – 14th, 2011, nearly 3,200 students in grade levels M2 through S4 (10-18 years), attending public, private, and home schools on the Island participated in the survey.

I’m not going to regurgitate the findings of the report again, but I felt that it was important to highlight it in the context of today.

Simply put, the purpose of the survey was to study changes in the use of licit and illicit substances; monitor trends in the prevalence and frequency of drug use and antisocial behaviours; determine changes in the level of risk associated with alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, and discover the levels of protective factors that help guard against those behaviours.

After reviewing the full results of the survey, I noted at the time that I was pleased to see that overall alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use had declined among Bermuda’s youth over the past four years of conducting the survey. However one particular statistic in the report was concerning and that was that students surveyed reported marijuana as the easiest drug to obtain.

So while we are seeing positive signs in our awareness efforts against drug use we still recognise that there’s still much work to be done.

So this Wednesday, at the Queen Elizabeth Park I am encouraging as many people as possible, to come out and participate in the launch of PRIDE Bermuda’s Red Ribbon Campaign.

As we confront the very real challenges of helping our children make the right choices when it comes to alcohol and drugs, we must have our entire community on board.

Whether you are a parent, a guardian, a counsellor, a teacher or just a concerned member of the public – you need to be part of the solution of making a difference in the lives of our young people by deterring them from involving themselves in drugs and alcohol.

As parents in particular, we must appreciate the importance of talking with our children about alcohol and drug misuse.

We must explain the effects of drugs on the body and the legal consequences of using drugs and we must make it clear why using drugs and alcohol is not ok.

And as I have said before, just as we inoculate our children against illnesses like measles, we can also help “immunize” them against alcohol and drug use by giving them the facts before they are in a risky situation.

When our children do not feel comfortable talking to their parents about such matters, they are far more likely to seek answers elsewhere, even if their sources are unreliable.

Children who are not properly informed are at greater risk of engaging in unsafe behaviours and experimenting with alcohol and drugs. 

Parents who are educated about the effects of alcohol and drug use and learn the facts can help correct any misconceptions our children may have.

So as parents.... as a community, I encourage us all to make talking about alcohol and drugs a part of our general health and safety conversations with our children and let’s join with PRIDE Bermuda in growing stronger so that our children can be drug free.

Thank you.