Focusing on FASD prevention

With Yukon MP Ryan Leef's private members bill on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder debated this week on the House of Commons floor, FASD is a popular topic right now.

With Yukon MP Ryan Leef’s private members bill on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder debated this week on the House of Commons floor, FASD is a popular topic right now.

But as important as addressing how our justice and social systems handle people who struggle with the injury, we can’t forget about preventing it in the first place, says Donna Jones, the prevention and outreach coordinator with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon.

Jones just wrapped up FASSY’s first tour of Yukon schools, where she was bringing the message of “thinking before drinking” to the territory’s teenagers.

“Alcohol is being marketed so heavily to young people,” Jones said.

“I’m trying to get them to think about how alcohol has crept into our society in sometimes insidious ways.”

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a brain injury caused when an unborn child is exposed to alcohol in the womb when its mother drinks during pregnancy.

One of the most concerning trends Jones has seen recently is the way alcohol is being marketed to women.

“There are new lines of alcohol and wines like Skinny Girl or drinks that are calorie reduced so girls don’t get fat. When women would get together for a baby shower it used to be over a cup of tea. Now it’s over a glass of wine,” she said.

That’s particularly concerning for teenagers who will soon be inhabiting the campuses and residences of colleges and universities, and being exposed to the often heavy drinking that goes along with dorm life.

But how do you talk to kids about FASD? Jones said it’s easier than you’d think. “Most of the students took the conversations seriously. In the smaller communities, many were surprisingly open about the issue,” she said.

“It was interesting in some of the communities where students have lots of experience with it. In one of them, the students immediately said, ‘Oh, there’s lots of that here.’”

Often FASD is not a stand-alone injury. Many times it is a result of deeper trauma and addiction in a family or community, and helping high school students identify that early on and understand the risks of alcohol is important, Jones said.

Schools can be the perfect place to teach those lessons, while also working as a safety net to catch kids who may be struggling silently with FASD. But that requires a healthy network of resources both inside and outside the school that are well funded and knowledgeable, Jones said.

“If (students with FASD) drop out, especially in the smaller communities before we can get them into programming and supports, that is a problem. In the communities, there is sometimes a sense of futility almost, people are aware of the problem but the resources are just stretched so thin.”

Jones has also been working with the student council from Yukon College on outreach ideas there. They’re working on an initiative for the fall aimed at making next year a “FASSY-nating year” at the school.

“Ideally we’d like to be able to raise enough money to put pregnancy test dispensing machines in the women’s bathrooms so women can find out if they think they might be pregnant, so they can think before they drink,” she said.

They are also working on getting the public on board with prevention as well.

Yukoners routinely out-drink their southern compatriots by nearly double every year. It’s no surprise that FASD is a struggle for many up here as well.

“We have this pride in being from the North and being big partiers and heavy drinkers. We’re not going to fight that,” said Jones, laughing. “So let’s embrace it and use it. If we could get the local retailers and distilleries on board, wouldn’t that be a coup?”

“In my own head there’s a sober today for our children tomorrow kind of approach. We do really value our children. Let’s talk about valuing them before they are born,” she said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Win some, lose some: Whitehorse council approves 5 of 7 infill parcels

‘I don’t think anyone has the right to say “my neighborhood is sacred, no one can come here”’

Proposed Whitehorse capital budget heavy on infrastructure funding

‘We’ve seen an unprecedented amount of infrastructure dollars from the federal government’

Victoria Gold plugs into power purchase agreement with Yukon Energy

Power company estimates mine near Mayo will spend $100 million on power over 10 years

Lack of staff closes Watson Lake’s only daycare

Facility can’t afford to pay competitive wages to attract staff, board president says

Straight and true: the story of the Yukon colours

Michael Gates | History Hunter Last week, I participated in the 150th… Continue reading

Get ready to tumble: Whitehorse’s Polarettes to flip out at fundraiser

‘There’s a mandatory five-minute break at the end, just so people don’t fall over’

Alaska’s governor goes to China

There are very different rules for resource projects depending on which side of the border you’re on

Yukon survey shows broad support for legal pot

But there’s no consensus on retail and distribution models

Yukon government releases survey on the territory’s liquor laws

Changes could include allowing sale of booze in grocery stores

Get family consent before moving patients to other hospitals: NDP critic

‘Where is the respect and where is the dignity?’

Bill C-17 passes third reading in House of Commons

The bill, which will repeal controversial amendments made to YESAA by Bill S-6, will now go to Senate

White Pass and Yukon Route musical chugs on without director

The cast and crew of Stonecliff are pushing forward without Conrad Boyce, who went on medical leave

Most Read