Harmony Workshop - Pop music and rap programme helps Fethard students

Roger Mehta photographed with students from Fethard's Patrician Presentation Secondary School during the running of the  'Harmony Programme - Preventing Drug and Alcohol Misuse' at the school. The programme was sponsored by Fethard & Killusty Community Council.
An alcohol and drug addiction prevention programme that uses pop music to show young people the dangers of substance abuse was launched in the Patrician Presentation Secondary School in Fethard.

An alcohol and drug addiction prevention programme that uses pop music to show young people the dangers of substance abuse was launched in the Patrician Presentation Secondary School in Fethard.

Students from Second and Transition Years took part in The Harmony Programme one day workshop that uses evidence-based music therapy with the music, lyrics and performance of many artists who have experienced addiction or written about the subject.

The programme has been created and run by Roger Mehta from Clonmel, who has studied and worked in the music industry and substance misuse field for many years. It was shortlisted for the 2013 Social Entrepreneur of Ireland Awards and endorsed by the HSE,

Artists featured in the workshop include Amy Winehouse, Eminem, Ed Sheeran and the recent multi-Grammy award winners Macklemore & Ryan.

“For many years a lot of rock or rap music has glorified drug taking, seducing young people into thinking it’s all just a bit of fun,” Roger said.

“The Harmony Programme shows the realities and consequences of misusing drugs or alcohol by rock and rap artists who young people identify with and look up to.”

Roger runs many workshops through the Tipperary Regional Youth Service (TRYS), Garda Youth Diversion Projects and is currently running the Harmony Programme in The Aislinn Adolescent Treatment Centre in Kilkenny.

He is hoping to bring programme to more young people.

“Awareness of the triggers and impact of substance addiction early on gives young people a head start in making better decisions,” he said. 

Roger explained that because music plays a pivotal role in the development and identity of many teenagers, it makes learning about such a life threatening subject very accessible.

“Students learn about the root causes of alcoholism and drug addiction and discover if they themselves are at risk of developing problems in the future. With this information, young people have the tools to firewall themselves against future substance misuse issues,” Roger said.

The most recent Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) report found that 10% of 15-year-olds have been drunk by the age of 13, and that more than half of 15–17-year-olds have been drunk at some point in their lives, leading to a stronger likelihood of taking drugs.

Other effects of substance misuse include poor school performance, anti-social behaviour and mental health problems.

In The Harmony Program, students also learn how to put preventative strategies in place such as the importance of staying in education, focusing and developing their strengths as individuals, participating in exercise or sport and how to have the courage to access support if need be.

One of the 2nd Year students who took part in the programme said, “I always knew drugs and alcohol were addictive however I didn’t know they were so addictive and dangerous as they are.” He said he enjoyed the experience very much and found it interesting, informative and fun.

The day long workshop also involved the students writing and performing their own raps, poetry or songs, expressing their own feelings and experiences. The finished works are then presented to students so they can feel proud and have ownership of their expression and art.

Roger pointed out that many teenagers come from homes where parents are abusing drugs and alcohol. It is vitally important that their voices are heard so they don’t end up going down the same path.

The Fethard students, who Roger found to be very pleasant and engaging to work with, are now hoping to turn their collection of raps into a book.

School Principal Michael O’Sullivan said: ‘This is an excellent age appropriate approach to drug and alcohol education. The Harmony Programme is delivered in a format that is educational, fun, interactive and enjoyable for all the students.”

If you would like more information on The Harmony Programme contact (052) 6148124, www.theharmonyprogram.com or email info@theharmonyprogram.com.