Young abusers can now get help anonymously with new portal
Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association launches live chat platform helmed by counsellors
In a bid to address the growing number of young drug abusers here, the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (Sana) launched an online portal - www.talk2sana.com - yesterday.
The portal allows youngsters to reach out to Sana counsellors and can be accessed from today.
From July 1, youth can approach Sana counsellors on a live chat platform, where they can seek out information or advice anonymously.
Two professional counsellors and 15 volunteer para-counsellors who have psychology or social work backgroundwill manage the chat, which will be available from Mondays to Saturdays from 6pm to midnight.
Users can also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org their questions for the counsellors beyond the live chat operation hours from today, and Sana will respond to them within 24 hours.
E-resources and e-learning links with information on drug abuse will also be available on the portal from today.
Earlier this month, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) announced a new initiative to use social media "influencers" to spread an anti-drug message among the youth as well as the pilot of the Anti-Drug Advocate Programme.
This comes after news that close to two-thirds of new drug abusers arrested last year were under the age of 30.
Those aged 20 to 29 continued to form the largest group of abusers last year, said the CNB.
Methamphetamine, heroin and cannabis continued to be the most commonly abused drugs, with 99 per cent of drug abusers arrested having used at least one of the three.
Speaking at the launch of the portal , Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development, cited a survey conducted last year which found that people below the age of 30 were more open-minded towards drugs as compared to three years ago.
He added: "As a backdrop to these local developments, it is worth reminding ourselves there is an active push by many groups internationally to legalise, commercialise and market the recreational use of drugs...
"We also see a lot of half-truths or falsehoods about drug use circulating online on social media.
"The launch of Sana's new brand identity is therefore quite timely.
"We share Sana's hope to inspire our young to 'rise above the influence', make the right choice and resolutely say no to drugs."Mr Abdul Karim, executive director of Sana, said they hope to engage schools to use the e-learning portal.
"This anonymous live chat will be useful for people who are too afraid to pick up the phone to call us or visit us personally for advice.
"If people come in for help, we will let them know what is the other side of the story.
"We will show them studies done by Institute of Mental Health that show that these drugs are addictive and harmful. We need to let people know."
Sana, set up in 1972, also launched a new logo marking a new phase in the association's engagement with at-risk youth and ex-offenders.
Choose right friends, says ex-abuser
He was 13 when he joined a secret society and was introduced to drugs.
Keith (not his real name), now 26, started with cough syrup and eventually got hooked on methamphetamine, heroin and cannabis.
He told The New Paper: "In my teen years, my ego was there, so I did what I wanted."
He was jailed for a year in 2009 for drug consumption.
He was released in 2010, but he ended up in jail again a few months later for other offences such as inhalant abuse.
In late 2015, he was working as a delivery driver when he was jailed once more for drugs consumption.
He was released two months ago, and has been clean since December.
Keithsaid: "I thought about the next sentence I would face if I were to be caught again."
He advises youngsters to choose their friends wisely.
"You can be friends with good people or bad people, but it is up to you to choose what is right and wrong."
- ANG HWEE MIN