National Prevention Week is an annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, mental health and/or substance use disorders.
Purpose of National Prevention Week
The three primary goals of National Prevention Week are to:
- Involve communities in raising awareness of substance use and mental health issues and in implementing prevention strategies, and showcasing effectiveness of evidence-based prevention programs;
- Foster partnerships and collaborations with federal agencies and national organizations dedicated to improving public health; and
- Promote and disseminate quality substance use prevention and mental health promotion resources and publications.
Each year, National Prevention Week includes daily themes to focus on major substance use and mental health topics. The 2019 daily themes are:
- Monday, May 13: Preventing Prescription and Opioid Drug Misuse
- Tuesday, May 14: Preventing Underage Drinking and Alcohol Misuse
- Wednesday, May 15: Preventing Illicit Drug Use and Youth Marijuana Use
- Thursday, May 16: Preventing Youth Tobacco Use
- Friday, May 17: Preventing Suicide
Why Does National Prevention Week Occur in May?
National Prevention Week (NPW) is held each year during the third week of May. Originally, SAMHSA chose this week because it is near the start of summer, an important time for school, communities, and prevention professionals to re-focus on prevention. Adolescents and full-time college students most often use substances for the first time during June or July, according to SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data on adolescents – 2012 (PDF | 704 KB) and NSDUH data on full-time college students – 2015 (PDF | 1.2 MB).
As national participation in NPW has increased over the years, the third week in May now serves as a week-long observance created by SAMHSA to celebrate prevention efforts in organizations and communities across the nation, and across all ages. We know communities make prevention happen every day – not just during NPW – and NPW is the perfect time to promote and celebrate a year’s worth of prevention efforts, as well as get news, ideas, and resources to strengthen daily, weekly, and monthly prevention activities.
Plus, the timing of National Prevention Week still provides a timely opportunity for schools and organizations to host prevention-themed events and activities before the school year ends, raising awareness about this important issue among students and their families. These are key periods of social transitions, a risk factor for youth substance use, and an opportunity to develop or strengthen the community, school, and family bonds that protect young people from substance use and strengthen community health overall. More information can be found in The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.