Beech Grove Comprehensive Drug-Free Coalition (CDFC) partnered with the Beech Grove Branch of the Indianapolis Public Library to bring recognition to National Prevention Week (NPW) May 8 -14. This year’s NPW theme, “Strengthen Community, Build Resilience, and Create Hope,” reminds us that it takes a community to keep a community healthy. It also raises awareness about the importance of positive mental health and substance use prevention. Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley commented, “NPW is very important as it brings attention to the health concerns of substance abuse and addiction. This is a subject that very few want to discuss but should be brought to the forefront. Until the federal government recognizes and treats substance use disorders and addiction the same as cancer and heart disease, the struggles will continue.”
CDFC worked with partners to bring awareness to NPW through a community billboard highlighting the 2022 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) NPW theme and Beech Grove community activities during the month of May. CDFC Executive Director Diana Hendricks commented, “NPW reminds us that “prevention is better than a cure. Prevention is proactive and taking responsibility for not just our own health and wellbeing, but that of others and our community.”
Indiana State Representative Mitch Gore stated, “NPW is designed not just to raise awareness, but to spur action.” CDFC and partners spurred action by designing a showcase at the library that provided education and resources necessary for parents/caretakers to act against youth substance use and mental health disorder. The showcase highlighted: BGCS prevention curriculum (Botvin Life Skills and Too Good for Drugs & Violence); the effects of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and opioids on brain development in youth; and proper storage and disposal of prescription medications in the home. The showcase also highlighted the impact of stigma, how the lack of understanding from others often causes devastating consequences, which can result in fear and shame preventing individuals with mental health and substance use disorders from seeking treatment.
CDFC Project Coordinator Alison Muckerheide, stated, “There was a strong sense of community when putting together the showcase. Many of our partners jumped right in to give ideas, resources and props to the showcase. We would not have been able to put together such a great display if it were not for our partners’ constant support.” The showcase was designed to educate, and as a call to action, for adults to come together to create a community that fosters well-being for our youth now and into adulthood. Hendricks commented, “substance use disorder is a mental health disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior which leads to their inability to control their desire for legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. Reducing the impact of stigma surrounding mental health and substance use disorders save lives.”
CDFC coordinated a “Youth Fun Activities Evening” in partnership with the library that included: Representative Mitch Gore speaking about NPW, Mayor Dennis Buckley presenting the NPW Proclamation, BGCS Botvin Life Skills “Tree of Strength” and Beech Grove Artist Collective and Cheerie Joy Studio students leading the youth in inspiration stars and hand decorating. Representative Mitch Gore opened the event with this statement, “NPW is meant to create a sense of togetherness in the community and to work as one to uphold the purpose of NPW to create a more vibrant and healthier community.” He delivered a call to action so the youth may understand, “It is our responsibility to take what we learned back into our neighborhoods and spread the word and live the lessons taught here every day going forward.” Representative Gore also emphasized the three core concepts of NPW: strengthen community, build resilience and create hope. These themes were noticeable throughout the evening as the youth were able to engage with state government, local government, their schools, local community organizations, parents/caretakers and their peers.
To further emphasize prevention and awareness, Mayor Buckley presented the NPW proclamation to the youth. The proclamation stated that when awareness is brought to substance use and mental health it allows people and communities to stay healthy and safe. Mayor Buckley stated, “As there is a growing seriousness that surrounds knowing the signs of mental health and substance use disorders, it becomes just as important for the community, and all its members, to strengthen community, build resilience and create hope.” The power of prevention can go a long way for the health of a community.
When asked the importance of NPW, Beech Grove Middle School teacher Julie Ping, co-leader of the youth Botvin Life Skills fun activities, understands the importance of using school-based prevention curriculum to help her students. Ping stated, “School-based prevention curriculum is important because many students have family who are experiencing addiction. Students need other adults whom they know care for them, will teach them alternatives to a life of addiction, and give them information on programs available to help families dealing with addiction.” One of Ping’s students commented, “Where else are we going to learn it?” when asked why learning school-based drug prevention is important. Ping stated, “movies, video games and music that teens listen to isn’t going to teach them, so we must.”
Beech Grove High School teacher Paige Anderson, co-leader of Botvin Life Skills activities commented, “I find hope in using evidence-based programs in the schools as it provides relevant and valuable curriculum to students. This platform helps build skills which will impact youth social, academic, and life success.” Anderson further explained, “The lessons help students understand self-esteem, goal setting, responsible decision making, relationship building, peer influence and other daily challenges impacting them as individuals. Through the interactive lessons and discussion, students are provided with learning and coping strategies. With today’s challenges, providing an evidence-based program with examples allows students to make wise decisions.” Anderson and Ping embodied the components of NPW as the community came together for this event, learned how to find resiliency within themselves, and created hope in the future for the youth.
Throughout the rest of the evening, Beech Grove Artist Collective and Cheerie Joy Studio students engaged the youth in painting “Inspiration Stars and Hands” that promoted mental health through art therapy. This activity demonstrated how creative outlets like art therapy can promote healthy minds. It also serves as an alternative to youth substance use prevention through fun activities.
As stated previously, it takes a community to keep a community healthy and vibrant for the future of our youth. In today’s world of an overabundance of information at the fingertips of our youth through technology, it is greatly important that parents/caretakers and the community rally around our youth as role models to strengthen the community in which youth will grow to be adults, build resiliency for the health of second and third generation families, and provide our youth with hope in a successful future. Representative Gore reminded adults, “let youth know that no matter what the situation is, seeking help, saying no, and doing what they believe is right will create the greatest amount of strength, resiliency and hope in our youth and the community.” He further encouraged youth, “simply say ‘no thanks’ or ‘my parents or family would not approve’ when presented with substances from friends, family, or other people.” Representative Gore further urged the youth to be resilient by resisting drugs and alcohol and making the healthiest choices possible. Our youth are the most important gift in life, and they need our love and support to navigate this world of information overload.