01.03.2014 "Indulgence or addiction" at the Fumetto Comix Festival
Prevention partnership. What do we actually mean by indulgence? And when does indulgence become addiction – particularly in young people? To find this out and to launch a corresponding dialogue, the Federal Office of Public Health and Fumetto Comix Festival Lucerne have organised a competition on the topic of "Indulgence or addiction".
The demarcation line between indulgence and high-risk consumption – whether of alcohol, food, media and a lot more – is fluid and it is perceived differently, depending on the individual. It is therefore not surprising that many people have a problem talking about it or pointing out abnormal behaviour to others. Those who do so are immediately dismissed as spoilsports or moralisers.
This year's Fumetto Comix Competition performs a balancing act on the topic and asks the question: "Indulgence or addiction – now and then, every so often, regularly, excessively?" The annual competition is one of the core features of the festival. It gives comic-book artists an opportunity to measure themselves against their international peers and make themselves known to a broad public. The annual competition has also become a springboard for young comic artists from all over the world. Fumetto receives up to 1,000 submissions from over 30 countries every year.
A competition rather than a campaign
Some prevention messages can be very effectively disseminated through broadly based mass-media campaigns. This approach has yielded very good results in the last few years in the field of tobacco control. However, the subject of addiction is complex and requires a more nuanced approach. It is not just a question of changing behaviour patterns in individuals; it is also about developing and promoting an awareness, at the level of society, of indulgence, risk and addiction and its consequences. So there also has to be discussion of social and cultural values, of how much indulgence we need and where the individual boundary lies beyond which indulgence becomes addiction. This cannot be achieved with a mass media campaign alone; it requires additional communication channels and platforms.
Nowadays, children and adolescents in particular are not adequately reached by standard communication and information media such as posters, leaflets or websites. Yet a dialogue with these groups is enormously important because adolescence is an experimental phase which also includes risk-taking. Risk-taking behaviour is part of the normal development process and a typical feature of young people's lifestyle; it is generally abandoned as the young people take on more responsibility, for instance in their work.
Comics as prevention media
Prevention therefore needs innovative approaches and forms of dialogue in the habitual setting and language of adolescents in order to show them how they can tackle this complex subject. The Fumetto Competition is one such approach. Picture-books and comics have always been popular means of familiarising children and adolescents with the world at large. They are a way of portraying almost any topic in an age-appropriate manner. With a combination of reflection and narrative, children and adolescents can also address more serious social issues such as xenophobia, violence or, as here, addiction.
The Fumetto Competition not only encourages participants to think about the psychological, social and family-related aspects of addictions and about the demarcation line between harmless habit and incipient risk-taking behaviour. Festival visitors will subsequently have an opportunity to inspect the submissions during the exhibition of nominated works. The individual stories will give the abstract, often taboo subject of addiction a face, thereby encouraging discussion and debate.
Lastly, the Federal Office of Public Health can also learn something from the competition. Not much is known about what young people think about addiction. The images and comics they submit should yield many answers and suggestions regarding the ways in which prevention messages can best reach young people.
Fumetto Comix Festival, Lucerne, 5 –13 April 2014
The Fumetto is a festival for comics, visual arts, graphics and illustration. Initiated in 1992, the nine-day event is staged every year in spring. The festival targets a wide spectrum of visitors, ranging from school classes, students and artists to art-loving and culturally interested members of the public. The underlying concept of the festival includes educational tools for every age group and different needs – handouts, guided tours, apps, talks by artists present at their exhibitions, drawing courses and teaching material for school classes. The Fumetto attracts around 50,000 visitors each year.
Valérie Maertens, Communication Manager, National Prevention Programmes Division, email@example.com