Back to black: the charitable legacy Amy Winehouse left behind
For the kids
You don't have to know much about Amy Winehouse to know she was troubled. It's a fact that, devastatingly, eclipsed how formidable her musical and song writing talents were, not to mention the subject she most often explored in her work.
So when she passed away from alcohol poisoning in 2011, a common reaction was the shrug and "it was bound to happen" comment, as so many people do when confronted with mental illnesses they may not understand. But the biggest question, and the one explored in the recent biopic/documentary AMY, was, simply, "how?"
With so many people - minders, managers, family, friends - not to mention the public - so painfully aware of her demons, it's crazy to think that help was so out of reach. If a celebrity who sings about depression, addiction and darkness has no help, what hope does a young person, whose troubles may be hidden out of view, have at all?
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Sadly, this question has plagued Winehouse's family since her death and one of the factors that prompted them to start the Amy Winehouse Foundation in her honour. The UK-based charity, set up on Winehouse's 28th birthday, works to keep her memory alive by providing support to disadvantaged and at-risk young people, which was a passion of Amy's, says her father.
In a bold, but hopefully successful programme, the foundation has partnered with specialist UK addiction charity, Addaction, in an effort to educate students on the effects of drugs and alcohol. Looking at the emotional side of addiction, rather than the shock-value so often used in schools, it will see former addicts visit schools and share their stories, aiming to discourage actions and triggers that can lead to drug use and abuse. So far there are 87 trained volunteers and 60 more signed up for training - all ex-addicts.
In an interview with The Guardian programme director Dominic Ruffy says that the foundation was born from Winehouse's parents, Janis and Mitch, experiences when visiting rehab centres. "The consistent message they got from people in rehab was that they'd never had any constructive education in school about drugs and alcohol," he says. "They'd had policemen in. They'd been told, 'Don't do this, don't do that', but nobody had ever gone in and talked to them about their feelings and emotions like we do."
While it's sad that this is the silver lining to Winehouse's death, with the foundation aiming to reach 250,000 pupils in the next five years, it's a legacy that pays tribute to the troubled singer in the most beautiful way possible.
If you're having a tough time and need someone to talk to, Lifeline is available 24/7, 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au
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