On June 11th, the second workshop under the framework of the project “Building Networks Promoting Health” was held in Riga, Latvia. The Project is implemented in collaboration with ECAD, Kaunas, Tallinn, Riga, and the Public Health Bureau of Kaunas between December 2023 and February 2025 and is funded by the Swedish Institute.

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The workshop was officially opened by Mr Juris Radzevics, the Chairman of the Social Affairs Committee of the Riga City Council. He reiterated the importance of prevention but it also being used as a tool during the elections and often being ignored or being pushed aside after the elections. Cressida de Witte (ECAD) highlighted the need for the inclusion of youth in prevention programmes as co-constructors rather than passive participants.

The morning programme revolved around each participating city to share their prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation services available as well as existing challenges.

Martin Moors, Head of Social Administration and Deputy Director of the Welfare Department of at the Riga State City Government, presented the organisational scheme for youth who face behavioural problems, domestic violence, and substance use. He emphasised that addiction is not an isolated problem, but part of broader behavioural problems and which cause can be connected to typical defence mechanisms. He discussed the risk levels (low, medium, high) and corresponding interventions.

-            Low Risk: Episodic use, mostly alcohol, continuing school attendance

-            Medium Risk: Social/party use, occasional experimentation

-            High Risk: Use interferes with school, relationships, and moods, frequent substance use with peers

Riga’s social services approach is identified according to the risk levels. The Medium Risk group enters social rehabilitation programmes, with the Resilience Centre being one of the first that developed such a programme. For High-Risk Groups, there are only a few treatment options available, and they are connected to voluntary attendance, which can be challenging sometimes. He also highlighted the four social rehabilitation programmes for youth groups.

Agne Libore, Specialist in Youth Affairs at the Structural Unit ‘Ezmerala’, and Adrians Sprudzans, Social Educator at the Structural Unit ‘Ezmerala’ shared information on the crisis centre providing shelter and care for children and youth separated from families. The centre provided small apartment units for children aged 0-18, with the possibility of staying until 24 years old. They focus on maintaining clear limits and positive motivation for youth, especially those with substance use issues. They reiterated the need for collaboration between institutions. For example, in Ezmerala, there is collaboration with social workers and the police for unauthorised substance use incidents.

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Liina Kaev, Health Promotion Specialist of the City of Tallinn, presented the Planet Youth Programme (Primary prevention) Tallinn has adopted. The Planet Youth model focuses on time spent with parents, school, and peer groups. Within the programme, and in prevention generally, data collection is crucial for informed strategies. She reiterated that one has to start early with raising awareness and include not only parents and children but also other stakeholders, especially politicians. Prevention has to be deeply rooted and not be stopped once the next election arrives. She highlighted that it is important to stay ahead of the problem rather than running after the problem. As their next step, Tallinn will be working with schools and parents. The latter are, however, sometimes challenging to reach.

Kristina Navickiene, Psychologist of the City of Kaunas, focused on the prevention and early intervention activities provided by the Public Health Bureau in Kaunas, where they work with low-risk groups. Examples of activities include physical activities, quizzes, health battles, and interactive experiments showing the harmful effects of substances. They recently organised an online event for schools from around Lithuania in which students had to collaborate in teams to make a small performance to showcase how to say no. On May 31st, they organised the possibility for youth to return electronic cigarettes for a small price while sharing information on the harms. They also organise early intervention programmes which involve parents and children, aiming to motivate behavioural change through regular meetings and activities.

The morning programme was finalised by two youths from the Resilience Centre sharing their feedback on the Prevention Day organised by Riga on May 31st. The prevention day aimed to improve communication between youngsters and adults responsible for their wellbeing. During the day, an exhibition of photovoice was set up. Photovoice is a methodology in which participants use photography and stories to identify and represent issues that are important to them, allowing researchers, practitioners or policymakers to better understand the issue or problem under investigation. Additionally, a rap performance was given, which is also a form of expression. The youth did provide the feedback that even though they felt it was empowering, it could include more youngsters rather than politicians/specialists only to get more balance.

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The afternoon programme involved a visit to the Resilience Centre, which youth can visit and receive support and guidance through mentorship. During the visit, information about the centre was provided. Additionally, a workshop in photovoice was given in which participants had to make photographs of any object found on the streets which they could resonate with and add a text. By the end of the workshop, all photos and their text were discussed.

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