Adolescent health worker
Dr Sarah Lantz is a Lecturer/ Researcher at the Centre for Adolescent Health. She was formerly a counsellor for CASA House (Centre Against Sexual Assault) and the Royal Women's Hospital Pregnancy Advisory Service.
What's been your experience of schoolies week?
I've had mixed experiences. On the one hand I've seen lots of young people partying, having fun, celebrating the end of a huge event in their lives, and on the other hand I've worked in professions where I have seen the other side of the story: young people who have consumed too much alcohol, overdosed, or been sexually assaulted.
Did you go to schoolies when you left school? Why?
Absolutely, and I had a ball! I grew up in a rural town in NSW which was quite isolated, so when school was done, a few of my friends and I travelled up to the Queensland beaches. I got a tan, went swimming, shopping and clubbing and my best friend taught me how to surf and play pool (both of which I still do badly today). I guess the difference now compared to then is the hype and the image around schoolies week and the pressure to party and party hard at any cost.
What's your advice for young people thinking of drinking at schoolies?
If you're going to drink, make sure you don't hurt yourself or other people. This includes 'pacing' yourself and knowing your own limits; alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks; never drink on an empty stomach; and never, ever drink and driving.
Way too many young people die each year from drink driving. Catch public transport instead, or have a designated driver who will not drink that night. Also, prepare your own drinks and don't leave your drink unattended, as this prevents people spiking them.
Make sure you also look after yourself and your friends. If a friend or someone you're partying with is affected by alcohol and needs help, call an ambulance - 000. Tell the paramedics what the person may have consumed, so that they can give the best care.
What's your advice for young people thinking of taking drugs at schoolies?
If you've never taken them before, then definitely think again. Schoolies is not the time to start! If you've taken drugs before and you're thinking about taking drugs at schoolies, make sure you put a few things in place before taking them, including: making a clear plan for the night and having trustworthy friends always with you; don't ever mix drugs, including drugs and alcohol; if you're dancing make sure you take breaks and drink plenty of water - rising body temperature is the most dangerous physical aspect of ecstasy and amphetamine use; always remember that the effects of drugs can be affected by your size, weight, health, mood and where you take them. Always begin with small amounts and remember that more is not necessarily better, sometimes more is just messier and definitely more dangerous! And if you or your friends have taken any drugs and are having a bad reaction or if anyone overdoses, the first thing to do is seek medical first aid and to call for an ambulance - 000. This may save your own or someone else's life.
What's your advice for people thinking of having sex at schoolies?
If you're thinking about having sex there's a few things to keep in mind:
- Intercourse is sex! Oral sex is sex! Anal sex is sex! You can contract sexually transmitted infections (STI's) in all of these forms. And STI's are easy to get, and often difficult to get rid of. So practice safe sex, including using contraception and condoms all the time
- You can also get pregnant having sex, so girls, don't always rely on the bloke to have, or use, contraception and condoms. Get proactive yourselves and make sure you're safe
- Remember that peer pressure, alcohol and drugs all affect your decision-making when it comes to sex. It's never good to mix them.
- Make sure ALL sex is a mutual sex, because sex without consent is rape and therefore a crime
- A holiday romance rarely turns into a long term relationship. I say this because I have seen many young people who have had sex and regretted it later. So make sure you respect yourself and don't EVER do anything you don't want to do.
What's your advice for non-schoolies thinking of going to the celebrations?
Great! You'll be in for a great time. However, if you're younger, just remember that the possession and/or consumption of drugs is illegal! And make sure you respect the schoolies and the locals.
How can young people have fun at schoolies without annoying the locals?
Respect the locals that live there all year round! Whilst they want you to have a great time, they also don't want their neighbourhoods trashed. So make sure you respect their privacy, their community and their environments. This includes watching your noise levels. In turn, the locals will respect you back and your time at schoolies will be all the merrier for it.
What do you think is the biggest problem young people face at schoolies?
The pressure to party too hard, drink too much, stay up too late. This isn't fun for anyone and leads to regrets.
How can they avoid it and stay safe?
Don't be pressured to do anything you don't want to do! And remember the precautions that I've recommended. Put these in place and you'll have a great time.
What general advice do you have for young people going to schoolies?
Be safe, have fun and look after yourself and your friends.