Each month in The Foreigner, we publish a list of useful and emergency numbers on our cover page, but do you have any idea what to expect if you call some of the services listed? What do they do and how might they be able to help you? We presumably all have a common expectation and understanding of the role of the post office or of directory enquiries, but what about the Centre for Abused Women or Alcoholics Anonymous? In order to give you a better understanding of the purpose and aims of these organisations, we are planning a series of explanatory articles dealing with each one in more depth. This month, we take a look at the Theseus drug prevention programme.
The Ministry of Health drug prevention programme through OKANA (Organismos Kata ton Narkotikon), established drug prevention centres throughout Greece in 1996. The Cyclades organization, based in Syros and Paros and responsible for all of the Cyclades, began operating in 1998 and has been functional now for just over one year with a staff of three in Syros and two in Paros - Chrisavgi Kanellopoulou (Psychologist) and Nikolas Tsilichristos (Sociologist).
Chrisavgi was born in Athens in 1958 and was educated at Greek-American high school (Pierce College) so she speaks fluent English. She studied psychology in Athens and the U.S.A. and lived in the U.S. for four years. Nikolas, her husband, is a sociologist, writer and educator, born in Thessalia in 1940, and lived in Sweden for nine years where he first started working with addicts.
Officially known as “Theseus Kentro kata ton Exartisiogonon Ousion” (Centre Against Substance Dependence), the centre is financed fifty percent by OKANA and fifty percent by the Nomarchia (Cyclades Prefecture) and any municipalities that choose to participate - up to now Syros, Tinos, Mykonos, Milos, Andros, Paros, Naxos, Ios and Santorini. Panagiotis Rigas, the Nomarchis (Prefect) for the Cyclades is President of Theseus.
The Centre works with three groups - parents, teachers and students, with a primary focus on educating teachers and parents to be properly informed and able to speak knowledgeably to their students or children about substance abuse. They also organize other activities - lectures, seminars, workshops, etc. - to open two-way communication channels and begin to address other underlying issues. Although the emphasis of the programme is on prevention rather than therapy, Theseus can also provide first-level support and counselling, plus referalls to treatment and rehabilitation centres and follow-up support to the family through the various stages of rehabilitation.
The Centre has literature available, and Chrisavgi and Nikolas have many years of experience working with addicts and in recognizing behavioural and physical symptoms of substance abuse. Chrisavgi cautions parents, however, to be aware that over-reacting to what are normal stages of adolescent development and jumping to conclusions about drug use can often create problems within the family and for the adolescent. If you are worried, contact them to learn more and to educate yourself as to what does and does not constitute drug abuse. This is their purpose in our community.
As Greek society goes through rapid changes and the traditional family unit becomes more and more fragmented, asking for information becomes critically important and you are encouraged to not be afraid to ask - fear of stigmatization and denial are bigger enemies than the drugs themselves. Your help getting involved in the school programmes is also needed.
Through cooperation with the Health Centre and other authorities, Theseus is working towards the longer-term provision of a psychologist and social worker as standard Health Centre services. This would also address the wider-ranging associated issues with substance abuse, as well as other problems of dysfunctional families and mental health.
Typically, substance abuse problems can be compounded by the issues of cross-cultural relationships where communication problems exist and there may be no common framework for problem resolution.
For further information call Chrisavgi or Nikolas on tel/fax 24745. Leave a message if there’s no-one in - they are regularly checked. The office is located above the Art Cafe at the Emboriko Kentro, Paroikia. A website is currently under construction.