In light of the International Day of Families on 15 May, we are brought back to the importance of families as the elementary social unit of societies, and of the impact that family environment can have on family members’ lifestyle choices, routines, and healthy living. As the first social institute that infants and young children are exposed to in their lives, supportive family relationships and interactions are crucial in supporting children’s development of age-appropriate language skills, and social and cognitive functions. And UNODC’s Listen First initiative further supports positive parenting and the development of social-emotional learning in children, with the goal of helping children grow healthy and safe.
On this note, UNODC is excited to announce that new, shorter versions of the Super Skills videos are available in English, French and Spanish! If you were hoping to use the Super Skills videos in a shorter format for social media promotions or TV broadcasting purposes, please do check out the new videos here.
And a partner that is already using these shorter materials, is Safer Youth Norway! This youth organization already collaborated with UNODC in availing the Listen First ‘Science of Care’ series into Norwegian last year. And upon their success, they’ve decided to further adapt the ‘Science of Skills’ series into Norwegian as well. In this regard, we heard the inside scoop from Emil Mikalsen from Safer Youth Norway, project leader of the Norwegian adaptation of Listen First ‘Science of Skills’.
Congratulations on availing the Listen First campaign's latest 'Science of Skills' series into Norwegian! Before we get further into the interview, could you please introduce yourself and your work to our readers?
My name is Emil Mikalsen and I'm 23 years old. Right now, I'm studying to become a teacher, and I’m working at Safer Youth Norway. At Safer Youth I have mostly been involved in drug and prevention policy. We regularly meet politicians as well as youth politicians, trying to educate and persuade them regarding drug and prevention policy. We try to promote the prevention efforts presented in the UNODC/WHO International Standards on Drug Use Prevention and constantly press for the need of scientific backing and evaluation to our policy makers. Safer Youth Norway also runs a mentoring program targeting at-risk youth, where we match 8th graders with a university student, and they meet about once a week. Besides the “Listen First” project I’m also working on making harm reduction videos about different drugs.
Any challenges that you are facing as an organization when addressing the needs for substance-use prevention? And how does the Listen First Norwegian campaign contribute to addressing them?
There is a lack of understanding of evidence-based non-punitive prevention. There are commonly held beliefs about what prevention is, which have contributed to certain practices that are not backed by evidence or go against what prevention research has indicated as effective. For instance, there these so-called “youth contracts” where children are forced into strict and humiliating drug testing regimes. However, the science-informed messages of effective prevention through the Listen First initiative have helped us spread knowledge and awareness about evidence-based prevention.
Safer Youth Norway also translated and adapted Listen First's "Science of Care" series last year. Can you share your experience in disseminating and working with the “Science of Care” series?
Through our work with Listen First, we have strengthened and solidified our knowledge about prevention, in addition to sharing this with the Norwegian community, including politicians, parents, teachers, health workers and other drug policy partners. We have printed out distributed posters to schools, health, and social services around the country. They have found them as useful tools for discussions during staff meetings as well as conversations with a child, parents, or both. To spread awareness around evidence-based prevention and the Listen First campaign to policy makers we invited ourselves to meetings with politicians. It has been valuable to use Listen First as a way of showcasing what evidence-based prevention looks like - and how prevention also encompasses promoting positive effects/aspects in addition to reducing negative ones. And it was particularly useful to show a concrete example of non-punitive prevention when debating prevention.
Your project is a good example of youth engagement and participation in drug prevention efforts! Can you share with the readers, on how as youths, you were able to embark on this project?
We were introduced to the project through contacts in our parent organisation Safer Drug Policies, the Norwegian government and UNODC. The Ministry of Health and Care Services provided us with financial support for the project as well as quality control of the translations. Two of our members have also participated in the UNODC Youth Forum, where they learned about prevention and the Listen First campaign.
Again, congratulations to Emil and the team at Safer Youth Norway on availing the Super Skills series to support the Norwegian community, and for the great inspiration for other youth on planning and rolling out a youth-led initiative!
For the Norwegian versions of Listen First, click here.