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Sonia O’Sullivan to lead discussion at Drugs and Alcohol Awareness Week

Sonia O’Sullivan to speak in Mayo

Áine Ryan

ATHLETE Sonia O’Sullivan is among the line-up for the upcoming awareness week on the misuse of drugs and alcohol organised by the Western Region Drugs Task Force. The second Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week, which runs from Monday, November 12 next, will include a packed programme of activities and information events thorughout the county.
The dedicated week will focus on the needs of families affected by substance misuse and the supports available to them.
Highlights in Mayo include a special sports seminar on Wednesday, November 14 at 7.30pm in Breaffy House Hotel, Castlebar, led by Sonia O’Sullivan and elite boxing coach Billy Walsh which will also feature Mayo Gaelic football star Ciaran McDonald; the launch of a new campaign on the dangers of drinking in pregnancy; a GMIT students’ awareness campaign called Sozzled and a new play called Sins of the Mother about the generational affects of alcohol, which will be staged in Belmullet.
Mayo’s first such Awareness Week, which took place last year, was so successful that the Western Region Drugs Task Force has now extended the dedicated week to the whole region. This year, there will also be activities across Roscommon and Galway.
The Regional Week will be launched at Breaffy House Hotel on November 12 next at 11 am. Last year the week was launched by An Taoiseach and organisers are hopeful he can attend again. Also speaking at the launch will be GMIT lecturer Dr Mark Garavan, who oversaw the third year social studies student research on drinking habits. He will talk about how students are now using their evidence to change the perception of what is considered normal drinking.
A report published by the Health Research Board in July 2010 found that Mayo was worst in Ireland in alcohol related deaths and deaths among people who were alcohol dependent. There were 1.1 deaths per 100,000 of the population in Mayo, which was almost three times higher than the rate in neighbouring counties Galway and Roscommon.
A Health Behaviour in School age Children (HSBC) research study (2010) also shows that underage drinking is higher in the Western Region than the national average. In this region, the percentage of 15-17 year olds who report having ‘had a drink in the last 30 days’ is 46.7 per cent compared to the national figure of 40.4 per cent. The percentage of 15-17 year olds in the Western Region who report ‘being drunk in the last 30 days’ is 40.8 per cent, compared to the national figure of 36.6 per cent.
The Awareness Week is the initiative of the Western Region Drugs Task Force in partnership with South West Mayo Development Company and Mayo North East LEADER Partnership.
Pat Conway, the Mayo Community Liaison Worker, said: “We want to help reduce the harm caused to people and families across Mayo by the misuse of alcohol and drugs. In order to do this, we have to first look at the way in which alcohol and drugs are an integral part of our culture and how we socialise. We do not see alcohol as a drug. We can’t begin to change this until we confront it.”

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