Parents are allowing their children to taste alcohol when they’re young, a mental health advocate says, and that’s contributing to a big problem with harmful drinking among youth.
Te Kainga Mental Health and Wellbeing Centre director Mereana Taikoko says there is a large number of young people consuming alcohol in the Cook Islands.
“They are consuming alcohol very early, getting into relationships, smoking and doing everything early. It is sad to see that they are smoking, consuming alcohol and other substances.”
“Nowadays, they are really young, younger than 14 year olds are tasting alcohol and it's not the children’s fault.”
As far back as 2010, a World Health Organisation report found that students in the Cook Islands were consuming alcohol from the age of 14 years.
Now, police say 62.5 per cent of road deaths involve alcohol consumption. Fatal crashes mostly occur between 11pm and 7am, mostly over the weekend.
Police say the location, timing and cause of the accidents are linked to alcohol consumption at bars, nightclubs and events around the Avarua area.
Taikoko says the involvement of young people with alcohol are not all parents’ faults.
But it is the fault of those parents who feel it’s okay for young children to taste alcohol at an early age, or parents who are not there to supervise their children.
“Fatalities on the road here are alcohol-related, we can see it. It is one of the main causes.”
Taikoko supported government plants to reduce the breath alcohol limit from 400mcg to 250mcg. “The alcohol limit must be the same as New Zealand, we have all these people dying.”
She said those who are under the influence of alcohol are often stubborn: “You can’t reason with them and it’s sad when lives are gone.”
She is encouraging Cook Islanders and anyone who is eager to tackle their alcoholic behaviour or feel are alcoholic to join AA, the Alcoholics Anonymous group.
The group’s sessions are private and mostly held for Cook Islanders.
“There are a lot of interests,” she added. “There is a check list a guide to see if AA is for you. Calls have been coming in from those who are interested, especially tourists.
“We have a lot of tourists they like these meeting because they do attend things like this in their own countries, it helps them stay sober.
“It’s about sharing experiences with a group of people who have a problem with alcohol, drinking problem. So, they share their problems and talk about how they have been able to deal with it.”
You can contact AA support group on 71835 or 20162.