The need for earlier education around drug and alcohol abuse has been raised at the latest meeting of Carrickfergus Policing and Community Safety Partnership.
The public event, which took place in Whitehead Primary School on Thursday evening, was held in partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.
Attended by around 40 local residents, the meeting focused on the theme of health and wellbeing, with presentations on the topics of legal highs , alcohol abuse and suicide prevention.
However, a claim by a local resident led to particular concerns over the need for earlier education on drug abuse.
Partnership chairman Councillor Andrew Wilson said: “One lady at the meeting told us she had heard of primary seven-age children passing around Tic-Tac sweets with the word ‘drugs’ written on them; this had apparently happened at schools in the borough.
“I think we are beginning to see the reality of our young people growing up more quickly and becoming more aware of drugs and alcohol via their peers and through mediums like the Internet, but not really being aware of the consequences.
“One area that was consistently raised was the need for earlier intervention to raise awareness and increase education in our primary schools about the consequences and associated dangers of drugs and alcohol misuse.
“I am aware that the PCSP-funded charity CCDAAG (Carrickfergus Community Drugs and Alcohol Advisory Group) offer a valuable service, along with the PSNI and the Trust, but at present, this is mainly geared towards post-primary education and youth groups.
“With the help of agencies like the health trust, the police and the education board, we need to start earlier and get into primary schools to talk to children about these issues.”
Those attending the meeting also heard about the Trust’s work on suicide prevention and intervention.
“I am aware through previous work that suicide awareness is an issue that is very much on the public radar in Carrickfergus,” Cllr Wilson added. “We have active campaigners and volunteers like Sami Cullen who are doing excellent work and no doubt saving lives, in our communities.
“The PCSP-funded project Good Morning Carrickfergus is a vital initiative for local people. The Here2help app is also a valuable tool; it provides with help via Lifeline, Childline, Women’s aid, Samaritans, FASA and the Simon Community at the touch of a button.”