Friday 24 October 2014

Frances Fitzgerald leads calls for action on dangerous craze

Alyson Henry

Published 03/02/2014 | 02:30

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald

TWO deaths linked to the Neknomination craze sparked concern that has united parents and students, politicians and pressure groups.

While many would not have heard of the viral internet 'game' before this weekend, all agreed it was a dangerous trend that should be stamped out.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald condemned the craze currently sweeping social media as "dangerous and harmful".

She said the trend "shows a broader need to address the drinking culture in Ireland".

She is also concerned that Neknomination reveals a flippant attitude towards alcohol in Irish society.

"Young people take their cues from our broader society's general attitude to drinking," she said.

"The popularity of Neknomination shows we still have a long way to go in developing a healthy societal attitude to the consumption of alcohol."

Fionnuala Sheehan, chief executive of Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society (MEAS) added: "The trend highlights the power of social media.

"Drinking a large quantity of alcohol very quickly is itself very dangerous. Even more so when it is done in risky circumstances, where the results can be fatal.

"I am asking young people thinking of participating in this game to consider both the risk to their own health and also if they would really want to be the nominator (of) someone who then takes up their challenge and, in doing so, harms themselves."

Dan Myers, President of the National Parents Council, said those over the age of 18 who took part in the game should remember "the example they're setting for younger people who might look up to them and think these videos are cool".

St Patrick's Mental Health Services CEO Paul Gilligan said: "We need to educate young people on the short- and long-term effects of alcohol consumption, and the risks of binge-drinking behaviours that have become commonplace in Ireland.

"Viral 'games' such as this contribute to a normalisation of binge alcohol use and have long-term negative effects on the mental health of our young people."

According to Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI), we drink over 11.68 litres of pure alcohol each year (figures from 2012) – more than any other country in Europe. A recent survey of 15- to 16-year-olds shows Irish children binge-drink more than other European children of the same age.

The report of the Steering Group on National Substance Misuse Strategy seperately states that the average Irish adult drank 11.9 litres of pure alcohol in 2010, corresponding to 482 pints of lager, 125 bottles of wine or 45 bottles of vodka per year.

In a statement on its website, AAI warns young people to refrain from taking part in Neknomination. It says: "Aside from being bad for your health, it reinforces the dangerous message that it is normal – and also fun – to get drunk, a message that is at the root of so much harmful drinking."

Irish Independent

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