Friday 23 February 2018

WATCH: Irish teenagers' anti-drugs video becomes global sensation

Joanne Fleming

A moving video about the dangers of drugs made by a Irish youth group has become an internet hit.

The hard-hitting production, viewed more than 240,000 times since it was posted four days ago, highlights how easy it is for young people to obtain illegal substances and shows the devastation left behind when they kill.

A Newtownabbey Arts and Cultural Network Drama (NACN) initiative by Coole Studio Productions, it opens with flashbacks to media headlines on the drug deaths of young people.

It then tells the story of two teenage girls who, after being handed money from an unsuspecting parent, arrange to meet a dealer in a park.

The girls are seen hallucinating before one becomes seriously ill. It then shows her in a hospital mortuary.

Police, played by real PSNI officers, are later seen visiting the family home and breaking the news to her mother.

Among those urging young people and their families to watch the video were the Shankill-based Purple Star Flute Band, who urged parents to take 15 minutes of their time to educate their children.

Hundreds of supportive comments for the video on the band's Facebook page included messages from Lesley and William Burns, whose son Jamie died after a night out.

His family believe he had taken ecstasy and have since set up their own '#1pillwillkill' campaign.

Lesley wrote: "Cried while watching this as it's so true - that's all it takes, one pill to take away a bright future to leave your family devastated."

She added: "Jamie was 23, never took drugs, but made the wrong decision on November 19, 2016 and died in the early hours of Sunday 20th. One ecstasy to ruin not only his life but destroyed our lives as well, when will people stop dicing with death?"

Project leader Dee Crooks, who set up the NACN drama group three years ago, said it was the first in a series of videos young people were making, which would address issues such as suicide.

He said they were inspired by people such as the family of Jamie.

"There was also Graham Larsen (who died from a suspected drugs overdose in December) who had a lot of friends in Rathcoole," he added.

Mr Crooks (42), originally from Rathcoole, said drug use locally was "high" in common with other working-class areas, and that they were used by people to get by "day to day".

"Rathcoole used to have a population of 17,500, now it is only 7,000," he said.

"We have seen the bank close, shops, secondary schools.

"There was nothing much for young people, no community facilities, no infrastructure, no direction. You can't really blame the parents either, there was nothing really there for me either when I was growing up there. I am trying to break the cycle."

Mr Crooks said arts and drama groups such as NACN were vital.

He added the cross-community group had since been involved in successful projects working with the Lyric Theatre and Queen's University, and had a film screened by the Irish Film Institute in Dublin.

Mr Crooks said the reaction to the drugs video had been heartening.

"I have had NBC News on from San Diego in California. The video is in Australia, it is in Canada. It is a very important message," he said.

"The drama group itself has also helped give a whole new lease of life to the area."

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