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Young drinker backs teen alcohol campaign

Teenager Catherine Woollard will be legally allowed to drink for the first time this week – but, for her, the novelty of alcohol wore off years ago.

Set to celebrate her 18th birthday tomorrow, she began drinking at the age of 12 following the sudden death of her grandmother.

By the time she was 16, she was drinking about eight cans of lager a day and had dropped out of school.

Now she recognises the problem she had and has spoken out in support of a Government campaign highlighting the risks of drinking at a young age.

Catherine, of Petersham Road, Long Eaton, has backed new advice from the chief medical officer, which recommends that parents supervise underage drinkers and be more aware of its health impact.

It also calls for support services to be available.

Catherine said: “Drinking is all part of growing up but if people are looking for help, this will be something that they can turn to.”

Catherine’s father was not around when she was a child so her grandmother, Doreen Woollard, took on the role of a surrogate dad.

But when Doreen died unexpectedly of pneumonia, it left Catherine distraught.

Encouraged by a new set of friends she met after moving to Long Eaton, she tried alcohol for the first time and found it helped numb the pain.

She began drinking more and more so that, by her mid-teens, she was going to school just once a week and failed to get any GCSEs.

She said: “I was trying to do anything in my power to stop myself feeling anything.

“I would roll out of bed at noon, grab a sandwich, watch a bit of telly and then start drinking at about 3pm.”

She was offered help by Breakout, a service in Ripley run by Derbyshire Mental Health Services NHS Trust, which supports young people with drug and alcohol problems.

She began keeping a diary and realised the extent of her problem. With the help of Breakout, she cut down dramatically.

Catherine, who is now hoping to study child care, said: “I feel I’m getting there, although I’m not quite finished yet.

“Now I’m waking up in the mornings rather than missing them and, come the evening, if my mate asks if I fancy watching a film, I can go without being drunk.”

Mum Helen, 38, admitted she knew her daughter was drinking but said it had been difficult juggling life as a single mum of four girls with working evenings and weekends at a hotel.

She said: “I think the Government guidelines will encourage people to think about what their children are doing.

“After my parents died, I didn’t have them or Catherine’s father to go to with any issues, and my partner was an alcoholic.”

source: This is Derbyshire

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