The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently launched a new national campaign called “Talk. They Hear You.” that empowers parents to talk to children as young as nine years old about the dangers of underage drinking. The kickoff occurred in conjunction with SAMHSA’s 2013 National Prevention Week—an annual health observance dedicated to increasing awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues.
SAMHSA’s latest report on underage drinking shows that more than a quarter of American youth engage in underage drinking. Although there has been progress in reducing the extent of underage drinking in recent years, particularly among those aged 17 and younger, the rates of underage drinking are still unacceptably high.
“Talk. They Hear You.” raises parents’ awareness about these issues and arms them with information they need to help them start a conversation about alcohol with their children before their children become teenagers.
Parental influence is the most important factor in helping keep teens safe, and MADD’s Power of Parents program focuses on educating parents and caregivers about the dangers of underage drinking, and provides them the tools they need to talk with their kids about alcohol. (Download the parent handbook for tips and tools to help you start this lifesaving conversation.)
MADD is looking for outstanding teens who want to use their power to take a stand against underage drinking and be a part of MADD’s National Teen Influencer Group. Teens selected to be a part of the National Teen Influencer Group will be an important part of the Power or You(th) program. As a member of the Teen Influencer Group, teens will:
Participate in conference calls with other teens and MADD leadership throughout the year to provide valuable input on teen programs
Participate, as needed, in projects to empower teens across America to take a stand against underage drinking, i.e. working groups, events, media interviews
We are accepting applications online now, through June 30th for the 2013-2014 National Teen Influencer Group. Help us spread the word to teens that are involved in significant underage drinking prevention work in your community.
Underage alcohol use and mental health issues often go hand in hand. We know that teens with certain mental health issues, like antisocial personality disorder or weak belief in their own ability to resist social pressure, are significantly more likely to drink. Likewise, there are very few mental health problems that underage drinking can’t make worse, like low self-esteem, depression, deviant behaviors, and even thoughts of suicide.
You could look at this as a negative spiral, but the good news is that it’s also a positive one – if you can prevent underage drinking, you can help teen mental health, and vice versa. That’s why MADD is proud to support National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 9th.
On Awareness Day, SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) works to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health. MADD is working through our Power of Parents program to provide parents and guardians tools and resources to help them build a better relationship with their teens on the firm grounds of mutual respect, open communication and shared expectations.
We are also working with teens through the Power of You(th) program, giving them the tools to help their friends stay happy, healthy and alcohol-free. This fits right into Awareness Day, where SAMHSA focuses on how social connections help young people thrive in later life.
If you want more information about Children's Mental Health, including materials and resources and getting involved in Awareness Day, visit www.samhsa.gov/children.
May 1st begins Global Youth Traffic Safety Month, an annual campaign held each May to bring awareness of the fact that summer is the deadliest time on the roads for youth in the U.S. This campaign is hosted by our friends at the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) Coalition.
Help youth make this summer safe on the roads by reminding them of these key tips from NOYS:
JST DRV – avoid all distractions – they can wait!
ALWAYS buckle up!
PLAN your route and your ride – take the safest way and ride with safe drivers!
STAND up for your own safety – Speak up and get out if you need to!
We’d also like to add: Don’t drink until age 21 and never get in the car with someone who has been drinking.
You can find additional tips from MADD’s Power of Parents program about teen driving safety and the Graduated Driver’s License Law to help your teen beat the odds here.
I am honored and motivated to work on achieving MADD’s mission every day. I am inspired by the victims we serve. Their stories put a voice and face on stark statistics. At least once a week, I volunteer as a victim advocate for MADD’s 24-hour 1-877-MADD-HELP line.
On a recent Sunday morning, I took a call from a bereaved mom. In tears, she told me her story. Her 19-year-old son died of alcohol poisoning while at college. She told me that on several occasions she told him to never drink and drive. “I thought I covered all the important topics with him,” she said. “I will forever regret that I didn’t tell him to not drink alcohol until he was at least 21 years old. Perhaps that advice would have saved his life.”
My heart aches for this mom and all other loved ones who have to live without their children due to alcohol related deaths. I am a mom, my most important role. I have two boys – a senior in college and a senior in high school. They are at critical stages in their life. As a parent, you want to protect them and give them guidance that helps them build healthy, happy lives.
I’ve utilized the Power of Parents handbook for the helpful tips to have the conversation with them about the dangers of underage drinking. I’ve had the conversation with them many times. Sometimes, I get the response, “we know mom!”
Today, April 21st, is PowerTalk 21 Day—the day set aside for us to talk with our children about the dangers of drinking before the age of 21. I hope you will be inspired by this one bereaved mom’s story and have this important conversation with your kids. Take hold of the influence parents have, and download the Power of Parents handbook.
As one very proud parent and MADD advocate, I wish you and your children good health, safety and happiness.