Canada joins the list of countries using „The Icelandic model“

How science can save our teenagers


Lanark county in Canada recently joined the many cities and communities that apply the so-called Icelandic Model, developed by The Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis (ICSRA) at RU, for preventive measures against teenage substance abuse. 

ICSRA has operated a research centre at Reykjavik University's Department of Psychology since 2005 and developed a method that has been labelled "The Icelandic Model". It is a methodology aimed at reducing teenage substance abuse and has been applied in Iceland with great result as alcohol and substance abuse subsided radically in the period of 1998-2016.

A teenage boy stands on the street

Tailor-made for each school

The method is rooted in data gathered through questionnaires that teenage students answer every year. The method is then adapted to each community individually and is based on data gathered with student surveys that touch upon substance use, vaping, screen time, body image, and mental health. The data is then analysed and an approach developed for that school and/or that community. 

The Planet Youth organisation, founded a few years ago, assists communities in implementing the Icelandic Model in 31 countries and more than 100 communities in Australia, Europe, Africa and in over 50 cities in Chile, Columbia, Mexico, and Brazil. The United States were added on that list as well not long ago.

Finally found the appropriate method

Lanark-county in Ontario is the first community in Canada to implement the Icelandic Model. Recently, the Planet Youth Lanark organisation signed a five-year service agreement with ICSRA. Authorities in Lanark county have been looking for ways to respond to the deterioration in mental health of its teenagers as many of them claim to feel stress and anxiety, and the abuse of substances is too common. Deaths that can be related to the use of opiates is on the rise. 

Local health and social welfare authorities have looked for the appropriate method to apply to the problem in recent years and finally chose the Icelandic Model. The new effort commenced January 20th 2020 with local and Icelandic representatives present.

"This is good news"

David Somppi, the chairman of the Planet Youth Lanark steering committee says that many other communities in Canada, big and small, face the same problems as Lanark and are watching their progress. He says the success of the Icelandic Model can in large part be traced to the science behind the method: the gathering, analysis, and appliction of data that is then related to communities in an accessible manner. The responsibility is put on the local community and the community shapes the preventive measures taken. Success is then rated. 

"We are very excited about this approach which will give families and organisations the chance to understand these matters more thoroughly within our community and give them the tools do deal with the matter in a more effective way. This is good news, that is for sure,“ says Somppi.