Tanya Southerland, Going Respectfully Against Addictive Behaviors Coalition director, explained the various activities planned for the week.
“We really want to first educate the community on the dangers of underage drinking, long-term cigarette smoke [inhalation], prescription drug abuse, while also helping break down the stigma of suicide and mental health issues,” Southerland said. “We really want people to come together.”
National Prevention Week began Sunday and will continue through Saturday, May 18.
An article by Southerland will be included on the Editorial Page each day this week. Each article will focus on a different subject covering suicide prevention to the promotion of mental, emotional and behavioral well-being.
SAMHSA is the local GRAAB Coalition’s federal partner in prevention. Southerland said the Coalition emphasizes the association’s promotions any time they are able.
“They want us to address these issues locally to be more prepared to tackle suicide prevention, underage drinking and prescription drug abuse,” Southerland said.
The week’s activities begin today at Chilhowee Middle School. Eighth-graders will have the opportunity to sit in on seven sessions throughout the day.
Volunteers from the GRAAB Coalition will discuss the dangers and repercussions of underage drinking.
Both Tuesday and Wednesday will find Southerland at the YMCA from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with an informational booth.
Tuesday’s booth will have two drug identification kits and pamphlets.
“What we are really trying to connect here is [YMCA visitors] are already beating the game by having a healthy lifestyle,” Southerland said. “We are just making the information available in case they know nothing about prescription drug abuse.”
According to The Partnership at Drugfree.org, a survey of grades 7-12 revealed several reasons youth abused prescription
pain relievers. The top reasons included the fact pills were easy to get from their parent’s medicine cabinet, 4,400 students; available everywhere, 3,700 students; easy to get through other people’s prescription, 3,550 students; and easily claimed as a prescription if caught, 3,500 students.
Steve Pasierb, The Partnership at Drugfree.org president and chief executive officer, said, in relation to the survey, “These findings should serve as a wake-up call to parents that their teen in facing a drug landscape that did not exist when they were teens.”
Visitors will have the opportunity to try GRAAB’s “fatal vision” goggles Wednesday.
Southerland said she is thinking about setting up a miniature obstacle course. The booth will contain information on the negative effects of underage drinking. Adults and youth alike can experience the physical effects on a person’s vision by way of the goggles.
Research conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found, “Three in 10 adults drink at levels that put them at risk for alcoholism, liver disease and other problems.”
Those interested in learning more about GRAAB and the prevention topics are invited to visit the Coalition Thursday.
Southerland said an open house will be held from 8 to 11 a.m. and from 2 to 5 p.m. GRAAB’s office is located in the back of the Hiwassee Mental Health building on South Ocoee Street.
Friday afternoon will find Southerland back at the YMCA from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. She will be passing out information on suicide prevention and mental health.
“We sort of also see this week as a good starting point for ‘31 Days of Prevention,’ in October. It will help us see what we need to focus on. It will really lay the foundation,” Southerland said. “If anyone wants to be more involved and misses the opportunity this week, then they can still help out with the 31 Days of Prevention.”