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Summer 2013, Volume 21, Number 3

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Empowering Parents and Communities to Address Underage Drinking

Michelle Nicolas was just eighteen when she lost her three best friends to a tragic car crash, a direct result of underage drinking. "The loss devastated our community. After going through this tragedy, my friends and I needed a way to heal—an avenue for turning something so devastating into something positive." Ms. Nicolas bravely recounted her story of healing at SAMHSA's "Talk, They Hear You" campaign launch event on May 13th in Washington, DC, where she explained the impetus for honoring the lives of her friends through a nonprofit organization formed to help prevent tragedies like this in the future.

SAMHSA's most recent report on underage drinking revealed that more than one-quarter of American youth engage in underage drinking, a behavior that can have detrimental consequences for youth and their communities. The Launch event brought together youth, families, public health officials, community-based organizations, and SAMHSA officials to raise awareness about the dangers of underage drinking and what parents and communities can do to address this public health issue.

SAMHSA's "Talk, They Hear You" campaign materials are designed to empower and enable parents and caregivers to start talking with their kids, as young as nine years old, about the dangers of alcohol. Resources include sample text messages parents can send to their children, clear descriptions of the consequences of underage drinking, and tips for how to tell if a child is drinking. The partner toolkit provides materials that can be tailored to individual communities to raise awareness about underage drinking.

"Talk, They Hear You" differs from previous SAMHSA underage drinking prevention campaigns through its more targeted communication approach to reach parents with children ages 9 to 15. This is a critical age group — a period during which children cite parents as the most influential people in their lives. Additionally, SAMHSA developed an innovative online interactive learning tool Exit Disclaimer to help parents learn how to talk to their children about alcohol, which will be available this summer. "As our youth and young adults face challenges, we as a community, need to effectively communicate with them in every way possible about the risks of underage drinking so that they have the necessary tools to make healthy and informed choices," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.

Communities Unite to Celebrate National Prevention Week

Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., at the 'Talk, They Hear You' launch event.

Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., at the "Talk, They Hear You" launch event.

The launch of "Talk, They Hear You" occurred in conjunction with the kick-off of SAMHSA's 2nd National Prevention Week (NPW), an annual behavioral health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of and action around substance abuse and mental health issues. NPW is directly aligned with the Surgeon General's National Prevention Strategy and supports multiple priorities outlined in SAMHSA's Eight Strategic Initiatives. Over 100 events were held in communities across the country highlighting the six themes that made up this year's NPW:

  • Prevention and Cessation of Tobacco Use
  • Prevention of Underage Drinking
  • Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Use
  • Prevention of Alcohol Abuse
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Promotion of Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Well-Being

Health fairs, block parties, educational assemblies, town hall meetings, memorial walks, social media campaigns, and outdoor events were rolled out to raise awareness about the importance of substance abuse prevention and the promotion of mental health. To learn more about these events and how to get involved in National Prevention 2014, please visit SAMHSA's National Prevention Week events page.

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