Youth in Iceland Comic Book (accessible version)

Download the YiLM Comic Book as a PDF

List of people: University of Stirling; We Are With You; Lived Experience Substance Use Member; Lived Experience Affected Family Member; Lived Experience Young Person; Police Scotland; Education; NHS Tayside; Leisure and Culture; Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP); Winning Scotland; DC Thomson (Press).

Meeting 1 – November 2019
The meetings for the Youth in Iceland Project have officially begun! After introductions and icebreakers it’s very clear the group is very diverse in experience and expertise.
“We should look into empowerment models for young people”.
Afterwards, the group came up with project ground rules: equality, honesty, re notes, respect, access to resources, commitment, innovation.
Finally we talked about plans for future meetings and inviting others who are interested “Hannah, Pat and I will be meeting with Joe Fitzpatrick and Shona Robinson in a few weeks”.

Language Matters. By Millie Strachan.
Language is so powerful – especially when discussing alcohol and other drugs and the people who use them.
Stigmatising language reinforces negative stereotypes. “Person Centred” language focuses on the person not their substance use.
For example, try this:
“Person with a dependence on”…. instead of this “Addict, Junkie, Druggie, Alcoholic”.
It’s a simple and effective way of showing you respect a person’s agency, dignity and worth.
Our attitudes towards AOD use and how we respond rests on the concepts and language we use.

Another example, try this:
“Person who has stopped using drugs”.. instead of this…. “clean, sober, drug-free”.
Words like “addict, “clean” and “dirty” reinforce negative stereotypes and encourage judgement, blaming and shaming.
Fear of being labelled as a “drug user” can and does prevent people from accessing treatment and support. Use of such language also contributes to poorer treatment outcomes.
Being mindful about the words we use is not about being politically correct. Language is a tool to empower clients and fight stigma.
What is considered “person centred” depends on the individual and the context. What is important is that we are respectful and “person centred” in our approach.

Meeting 2. December 2019
After introductions, Tessa acknowledged the recent drug related deaths in Dundee and we reflected.
Hannah provided an update on Emmet Major, Planet Youth Ireland’s, trip to Scotland: “Emmet Major will be at the February meeting and will be hosting a seminar about his work in Ireland”.
Next we discussed the dissemination event and who we would invite such as politicians and NHS workers: “I think we should connect with Hot Chocolate, a youth organisation based at the Steeple”.
Hannah gave us an overview of the SALSUS report and we talked about how we could learn from it: “The number of schools participating have dropped each year”.
We discussed the educational approaches we should take: “Children need good mental health to be able to say “no” to drugs later in life”.
Filming for the project has officially begun.
And lastly we talked about communications strategies.

Meeting 3. January 2020
First, we discussion perhaps putting together a briefing paper after Laura shared some information about Planet Youth Ireland’s seminar and found people were intrigued: “Lots of people asked for information about the project” – “It would be really useful to have something to share with the Dundee Youth Council.”
Dave suggested putting together a facebook page as this is much quicker to do than a traditional website
Mike expressed interest in the outreach aspect of the model and we considered how libraries might fit into the project
Kerry Dalgetty, NHS Tayside, shared with us some framework from last year about substance use in Dundee
Finally, we viewed an interesting presentation from Planet Youth Netherlands after Laura reached out to someone involved over there.

Meeting 4. February 2020
February’s meeting was bigger than usual, with people from organisations all over Dundee attending and even members of Planet Youth. Hannah and Tessa did the introductions.
Margrét Lilja Gudmundsdottir, data specialist at ICSRA and lecturer at Reykjavik University, gave us a general intruduction to Planet Youth and answered some questions: “How do you engage with parents?” “We work directly with schools and the parents’ groups”
Next Emmet Major, from Planet Youth Ireland, told us about how the model is adapted for Ireland and we finished with a group discussion: “How do you break down barriers for certain young people?” “Wherever possible we look at activities for everybody, ‘it takes a village to raise a child'”.

The trip to Iceland – March 2020
30 years ago in Iceland, the attitude towards underage drinking and substance use was the same as it is in Dundee today. Though we are aware of the dangers of such activities they are widely accepted as part of the Scottish “growing up” experience. In the 1990s, Iceland developed the Youth in Iceland model which aimed to prevent young people’s substance use through decreasing risk factors and increasing protective factors such as extracurricular activities offered at school and strengthening the support systems between young people and their parents.
Now, as members of the YiIM Dundee project, Hannah Pat, Dave, Millie and Lon (the videographer) are traveling to Iceland for this year’s Planet Youth “Prevention is Possible” convention to gather information from the studies and models adopted from the YiIM by other municipalities. We also hope to do some informal research, talking to some locals and finding out how the YiIM affected them. The final goal of this trip is to bring the information we gather back home and use it to further our own interpretation of the YiIM.

The Journey
I realise now that there is no such thing as packing light for Iceland during winter: “Come on, close”.
I met Pat at the bus stop, and after a tearful goodbye from my parents… “Don’t lose your phone, behave yourself, don’t talk to strangers, don’t due, don’t lose all your money, don’t let the plane crash”… it was time to head for the airport.

We arrived at the hotel at night and after some very late night pizza at the only diner nearby, it was time to go to sleep.

On our first day we set out to explore the city and maybe even get an interview with a local asking what they knew about Icelandic culture around alcohol and substance use. Our first stop was the tourist office.
Ewan, in his 40s, had moved from Scotland to Iceland around 20 years ago. He described the difference between Scottish and Icelandic culture: Icelanders are very child-centred. They are more open to discuss drinking and smoking than Scottish people are.
A colleague of Ewan’s, 23, described how her generation didn’t start drinking until their very late teens: Parents often make a deal with their children where they promise to pay for driving lessons and such as long as they don’t drink before a certain age.
We also visited the town hall and a local school, but were not able to speak to many people. The people we did speak to, however, were unaware of Planet Youth, despite noticing a cultural shift.

Later that evening, we decided to head into town to a local bar to try and interview some locals where we met Magnus and Mikael, both 18, who, rather than drinking alcohol were drinking soft drinks and playing cards.
They both described a culture where it was uncommon to drink before 17, but interestingly said it was very common to get regularly drunk at the weekend after 17: “We both had deals with our parents not to drink before 20, but this didn’t last. We don’t drink on school nights, but we do often get drunk at the weekend”.
Mikael talked about how his father works in mental health care and had warned him against the dangers of substance use, so he was very anti-substance use because of this: “He also said if I used drugs it would ruin our father/son relationship and this is not something I wanted.”
Although the boys were not aware of Planet Youth, they did say they filled out surveys at school every year about alcohol and substance use, and, in another interesting insight, said that quite a few students lied on these surveys suggesting that there are still improvements that need to be made to the Planet Youth model.

Wednesday: Planet Youth Conference Day 1
Finally it was the day of the conference. We headed over to the Grand Reykjavik Hotel where the conference was being hosted and met Planet Youth’s partners from all over the world.
First we were welcomed to the conference by the director of ICSRA, Jon Sigfusson, and then the Mayor of Iceland, Dagur, B. Eggertsson, opened the conference with a few words.
Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, ICSRA’s research director, gave us a detailed introduction to Planet Youth and their Icelandic model.
Next ICSRA’s lead scientist, Alfgeir Krist Jansson, talked about primary prevention as a building block.

And then it was time for lunch! We were joined by Jeron de Greef from the Netherlands branch of Planet Youth
After lunch, the Project Manager of Plant Youth Reykjavik, Sigridur Arndis Johannsdottir, talked to us about the Reykjavik experience.
ICSRA’s municipality prevention specialist, Gisli Arni Eggertsson’s talk tied in with the previous talk’s emphasis on the role of the community.

Thursday: Planet Youth Conference Day 2
The first talk of the day was from Carlos Charme from the Chilean branch of Planet Youth about turning Planet Youth into public policies
After that, Chile signed a contract for the inclusion of more municipalities in the Planet Youth model and Mexico signed up its first municipalities.
Next Jeroen de Greef, senior prevention specialist from The Netherlands, discussed how they were working to boost prevention and change liberal views surrounding marijuana.
After a coffee break, Emmer Major, community liaison worker WRDATF talked about community and stakeholder engagement in the three Irish municipalities: Mayo, Roscommon and Galway.

After lunch we learned about the model in Chile (Humberto Soriano), Guinea-Bissau (Geir Gunnlaugsson) and Spain (Patricia Ros Garcia). Planet Youth down under: The Australia experience – Craig Martin, and the role of universities from Carlos Ibanez, one of the first coordinators for Planet Youth in Chile.
After her talk on Planet Youth in Lithuania, we managed to get an interview with Brydis Bjork Asgeirsdottir – Senior Scientist for ICSRA and chair of Psychology at Reykjavik University: “What aspects of the model can be used to convince policy makers of its usefulness?” “When we follow up on cohorts’ progress we can see they are less likely to use substances than those who received no intervention”.

Friday: Planet Youth Conference Day 3
Friday was the final day of the conference and the topic of today was practical implementation and strategies. Our final opening talk was from Thorfinnur Skulason – communication director for ICSRA – about 20 years of prevention in Iceland.
Next we learned about the benefits of organised leisure activities from Dadi Rafnsson, a lecturer at Reykjavik University, then we had a quick coffee break!
Interpretation and presentation of local data – ICSRA’s data specialist, Ingibjorg Eva Thorisdottir.
Next, project manager for the directorate of health Sigridur Kristin Hrafnkelsdottir talked to us about healthy schools and communities.

After lunch, Hredna Sigurjonsdottire, Director of Home and School, talked about the National Parents Association
Mariano Montenegro, Director of the Columbo Plan explained how the Columbo Plan contributed to the Planet Youth model.
Finally, Pall Rikhardsson discussed getting started as a planet youth community and Jon Sigfusson wrapped up the conference.
For our final night in Iceland, we went to the “Islenski Barinn” and enjoyed ourselves knowing we had lots of information to bring back to Dundee!

Extras: Bonus things we got to do on the trip
On Tuesday we did the “Golden Circle Tour” which took us outside of Reykjavik. We got to bathe in Iceland’s oldest hot pool ” The secret Lagoon”.
Then we visited Fridheimer Tomato greenhouse for a unique tomato themed lunch where we also saw Icelandic horses. Afterwards, we set off to do more sightseeing.
Next, we visited Gullfoss Waterfall, the geothermal area of Geysir with its erupting Geysers and then we finished the day at Thingvellir National Park, where the tectonic plates meet.

On Monday, we visited the Harpa Concert Hall where we did some recording. I got to try some Kjotsúpa Lamb Soup at Cafe Babalu.
On Thursday after the conference i went to the Hólavallagardur cemetery.
I also visited Hallgrimskirkja church, Lake Tjornin and finally Reykjavik Museum for photography.

Meeting 5: May 2020
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the meetings have been moved online. Today we are joined by Cathy MacDonald, former crisis negotiator, to give us a session in communications.
The foundations of communication – people need to feel understood and respected. So we should listen for/convey these three things when communicating with people: “Information – dates, times, the structure of the desired change, new rules of the office” “Emotion – an essential part of communication, if someone reacts in a negative way it is important to intervene” “Values, beliefs, needs and wants – letting someone vent is a good way of learning what makes someone tick and makes it easier to communicate with them”.
Next, we learned some helpful tactics such as summarising and paraphrasing: “Summarising the facts and their feelings shows that you are listening”
Using “You, We, I” when communicating. Example: your workmate creates friction: “You create friction in the team” “I get annoyed when there is friction in the team” “We can sort things out in a better way than this”.
Signposting to give indication of where the conversation is going: “Speaking plainly as a forthright colleague” “Speaking from the heart as a husband who cares”.

Meeting 6: June 2020
We started off by discussing work in Dundee over the summer. Dave noted that he liked the wide range of activities for youth in Reykjavik: “It would be good to work with parents and schools to support activities”
Alex Jarrett from Police Scotland joined us today and mentioned that they are working closely with the SFA: “The project is called ‘Off The Bench'”.
Peter has conducted 8 interviews in total and noted that a lot of the concerns that participants have about the approach are being discussed in the project meetings. “The main positive views are around engagement of third sector organisations and links with the Icelandic model. The negatives relate to the cost of the survey. There are suggestions that a Scottish survey could be cheaper.”
However, many participants are keen on the approach, so we are trying to speak with people who hold less positive views too: “There are some fears that the approach does not engage well with young people in deprived areas and that the approach lacks structural change”
Hannah explained that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project has been extended to April 2021: “The final event will now likely be held in February 2021”.

Meeting 7: August 2020
After introductions, Tessa updates us on what’s happened since the last meeting: Hannah has had conversations with the Winning Scotland Foundation about their work on the Icelandic model.
Sarah Anderson who has just joined the group is working with schools in Dundee using elements of the Icelandic model.
Pat wants to get the project on the move now: “We need to establish local buy-in”.
Simon is not so sure, but Laura agrees with him: “We don’t have enough evidence yet”.
Audrey May, head of education agrees with Pat: “We need to connect the dots now”.
Over the next few months, we will be discussing how to move forward in terms of funding etc. : “For example, at a local high school cluster, we should establish what elements of the model are already in place”.
We finished off by watching the short film that Lonnie, the videographer, put together of the trip to Iceland in March.

Meeting 8: September 2020
Hannah updates us on the work that’s being done with the Hot Chocolate Trust: “Dave, Lonnie and I will be meeting with the CEO to discuss possible filming”.
Laura noted that she sits on the ADP Prevention Subgroup with Dave and Sarah where they are learning more about prevention work.
Joining us today is Rick Orr and Grant Small from the Winning Scotland Foundation, Rick gives a presentation on the WSF and their involvement with the Icelandic Model: “The focus of our work has traditionally been sports but recently moved into education. Several of our previous are now national programmes” “We like the Icelandic model because it is a national programme. It brings people together, it has partnership  working at its core, it’s evidence based and has a long-term focus”.
Laura wonders if we should go ahead with the questionnaire: “It’s a small aspect of the model and there are already questionnaires out there”.
In the end, we need more engagement than just surveys as we’re not just trying to collect data but cause a cultural shift: “We shouldn’t duplicate what is already there” “Lots of questionnaires don’t actually achieve much”.

Meeting 9: October 2020
Since the last meeting, Audrey has decided a local high school cluster will be involved: “A local high school cluster will be doing the survey”.
Grant says Winning Scotland will be taking forward implementation of Planet Youth work: “The aim is to deliver the survey to a local high school cluster in March”.
And Rick added that they had received an email from West Dunbartonshire ADP: “They are interested in the Planet Youth work”.
Leanne Blackwell for Police Scotland provided an update on the Sidestep Project: “Funding has been received to start a project in Dundee which will overlap with Planet Youth”.
On the topic of filming, Simon noted that there was a need to identify the target audience: “It would also be good to have short videos from a range of stakeholders like Audrey”.
Revati Campbell from the SYP gives an overview of their report on the Icelandic model: “A range of related policies had been supported by the report on the topic of Alcohol and Cannabis use”.
Tessa finished the meeting off by thanking Revati and Morag for attending and also invited them to future meetings.


Comic artist

The comics in this booklet were drawn by Millie Strachan, an art student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee. Millie was born and grew up in Dundee, and she was commissioned by the research team to produce visual outputs for the study. Millie can be contacted by email at


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