A safety message for young people ahead of Leavers

17 November 2016

Young people continue to place themselves at unnecessary risk by drinking alcohol while in, on and around the water. Over the past ten years, 41 young people have drowned in Western Australia and a further 99 have been hospitalised following a non-fatal drowning incident, many of whom have ongoing health issues. Of these, alcohol contributed to almost a quarter of all incidents and the tragedy is, that all of these are preventable.RLSSWA's Lauren Nimmo with Don't Drink and Drown Youth Ambassador Eliza Mitchell and RLSSWA's Joe Down in front of the pool at RLSSWA headquarters

Lauren Nimmo, Senior Manager, Health Promotion & Research at Royal Life Saving says “these numbers are alarming and despite many years of education, the message still isn’t getting through. Young people continue to take unnecessary risks by drinking around the water. And it’s not just a quiet drink with friends; the majority of young people involved in these incidents recorded a blood alcohol level more than 4 times the legal limit for driving! We need to change young people’s perception that it won’t happen to them and highlight the real risk they are placing themselves and their friends at by drinking around the water.”

Kim Dybing from the Paraplegic Benefit Fund knows too well the impact that alcohol can have on a young person’s life. Kim was injured one month after his 21st birthday and his life changed forever. He was a highly competitive and enthusiastic windsurfer and also enjoyed off-road motorcycling. He was a young man high on life with a solid future in the construction industry – for him ‘life was sweet’. But this all changed after he became a paraplegic following a road accident after drinking alcohol. “Just a few drinks can make you feel invincible and you then take risks you normally wouldn’t. These alcohol fuelled behaviours can change your life forever. It did for me.”

Lauren Nimmo says “unfortunately stories like Kim’s are all too common, whether behind the wheel of a car, or in water. Young people need to realise that the consequences of drinking too much alcohol can be devastating and life changing. Drinking alcohol affects your ability to make safe decisions, impacts your coordination and can make you disoriented which become even more dangerous when you’re in or around water.”

As a young person, Eliza Mitchell, youth ambassador for the Don’t Drink and Drown program also understands the impact that alcohol has on young people “Alcohol is unpredictable. Many people can be a few drinks down and then seemingly out of nowhere lose complete control of their own body. I have witnessed firsthand the risks people put themselves, and subsequently their friends in, by drinking at dangerous levels around the water. It is so important for young people to make safe and sensible decisions when in an aquatic environment.”

With thousands of school leavers heading to celebrations down south and at Rottnest Island next week the message is clear – alcohol and water don’t mix! Lauren Nimmo says “we are urging young people to look after each other and celebrate safely while at Leavers next week. We want them to enjoy themselves but they need to be aware that the decisions they make now can have long lasting effects for themselves, their friends and family.”

Find out more about our Don't Drink and Drown Leavers program at the link below.