National Prevention Week is an annual event put on by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In 2020, National Prevention Week will occur the week of May 10-16. The goal during this week is to increase public awareness regarding ways that individuals and organizations can take action to prevent substance abuse and promote positive mental health.
The Timing of National Prevention Week
SAMHSA chose the third week of May for National Prevention Week for a reason. It’s the start of summer and a time when adolescents are taking their focus off academics and frequently turn to substance use for recreation. Studies by SAMHSA show that June and July are when college students often use substances for the first time.
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By having National Prevention Week at this time, schools have the opportunity to host events about prevention before the school year ends. It’s the perfect time to raise awareness among students and their families.
How Substance Use and Misuse Impacts Lives
For many people, particularly teenagers and young adults, substance use begins innocently. Alcohol or drugs are used out of curiosity or because of peer pressure. In far too many cases, experimentation turns into full-blown addiction, leading to a compulsion to use substances at any cost. Once addicted, a person is often unable to work or function in relationships and may suffer health, financial and relationship consequences.
According to the Surgeon General, alcohol misuse alone contributes to as many as 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Over 20 million people age 12 or over in the United States had a substance use disorder in 2015. Over 45,000 people in 2014 died from a drug overdose, some of which died from the misuse of prescription drugs.
Suggested Events for Raising Awareness
There are almost an unlimited number of ways to raise awareness about substance abuse and positive mental health. Schools and organizations can promote many different activities during National Prevention Week such as the following:
- Essays and art contests for students – Run a contest in which students can creatively express ideas about preventing substance abuse.
- Mural painting – Encourage students to create a mural regarding substance use prevention and positive mental health choices.
- Health fair or science fair – Ask science teachers to assign projects regarding the toll substance misuse takes on the body, including the misuse of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.
- Community walk/run or bike ride – Spread information and raise funds for local recovery organizations or mental health treatment centers.
- Open house – Local mental health centers or recovery treatment centers could hold an open house in which members of the community are invited to hear about what services are offered.
- Stress management workshop – Raise awareness of healthy ways to cope with stress by asking local yoga or meditation practitioners to run workshops.
SAMHSA offers a series of promotional videos that can be shared by schools or organizations to help raise awareness in communities.
Health Topics Addressed by National Prevention Week
The theme of National Prevention Week this year is “Action today, healthier tomorrow.” Small, simple acts can make a surprising amount of difference, such as offering a nonjudgmental, supportive attitude toward friends and family members who may be struggling.
SAMHSA offers suggested health topics for National Prevention Week, which include promotion of mental health and wellness, prevention of underage drinking and alcohol misuse, prevention of prescription drug misuse and marijuana misuse, prevention of youth tobacco use and prevention of suicide.
Promoting the Message of Prevention
Besides community awareness, information on prevention and treatment can be shared on social media. To promote events or to share prevention information, post brief messages, graphics or videos to social media. The National Prevention Week hashtag is #NPW2018. Using this hashtag will bring your event or promotion efforts into the national conversation.
Efforts by individuals and organizations to carry the message of prevention can go a long way toward increasing public awareness regarding the danger of mind-altering substances and the need for a positive, supportive approach to mental health. This is what National Prevention Week is all about.