University is a unique experience for millions of young people. The support networks of friends, family and school all changes over night. Naturally, many take the opportunity to try new experiences which may include legal highs.
The Angelus Foundation, has recently carried out a snapshot survey of fresher students, which found 19% admitted to taking a legal high. Other findings included: over a third (36%) had been offered a legal high and three out five (61%) had a friend who had taken one.
The survey was conducted in September 2014 in a University in southern England. Angelus has been engaging with students at the Freshers’ Fairs, showing them information films and making them more aware of the harms and unpredictability of substances such as Clockwork Orange, Pink Panther and AMT.
The Crime Survey of England and Wales 2013/4 showed 7.6% or 16-24 year olds had taken nitrous oxide in the last year (this figure is likely to be an underestimate as it does not include student halls of residence).
Angelus has set up stalls on NPS awareness at Sussex University (17 Sept) and King’s College London (19th). Students were surveyed about their knowledge and experience of NPS, were shown films and were engaged with personally. The Sussex event attracted coverage from BBC South East and the Brighton Argus. The results of the surveys was brand new – we are not aware of any prior canvassing of students on the issue of NPS.
In recent years there have been some serious incidents at festivals involving legal highs. So in 2013, Angelus began working in partnership with the Association of Independent Festivals to promote audience safety through greater awareness of the risks.
The ‘Don’t be in the Dark’ campaign was a huge success. There were twenty six festivals who ‘blacked’ out their websites for a day (May 5). They had a collective audience of 3/4 a million people and reached over 9 million through social media. There will be a brand new campaign in May 2015 which will build on this year’s success.
We have been working closely with Brownstock Festival in Maldon Essex to raise awareness following a fatality at the event in 2013. We visited two local schools and showed Angelus films to over 300 sixth form students. We also wrote copy for their website and e-mailouts to festival go-ers which achieved their highest ever ‘open’ rate of over 70%. The senior festival team was personally briefed and there was a consistent Angelus presence at the festival itself (26-8th August) supplemented by volunteers from Oasis.
Angelus addressed a meeting focussingon audience issues at the Annual Congress of the Association of Independent Festivals held in Cardiff on 17/18 October. We intend to survey all the 45 members of AIF on their particular needs around NPS audience education and establish stronger individual ties with festival admnistrators.