Written by Krupa Patel, CCPRD Project Associate
Our Substance Use Prevention Services (SUPS) program is now entering its fifth year! The SUPS program continues to provide evidence-based prevention programming to schools in Elk Grove Township and Schaumburg Township that serve 6th-12th graders. This year, services have expanded to include parts of Hanover Park Township, including both Spring Wood Middle School and Streamwood High School. Much of our programming is now offered digitally to better serve students and their families in safer ways during the pandemic.
What do the trends say about youth substance use during COVID-19? The pandemic has undoubtedly pushed many people, including youth, into uncertainty, loss, trauma, isolation, and boredom. Socio-economic instability, disrupted routines, loss of in-person social structures, experiencing or witnessing acts of violence are all intense experiences. Researchers have suggested that people of all ages, including youth, are more prone to using substances during periods of societal and environmental disasters (Castro, 2020). This pandemic is surely one of them, and struggles are further exacerbated for those with limited access to safety nets and community resources.
SUPS programming has creatively adapted its services to meet the needs of this public health moment. One example is Youth Advocates for Change serving D211, formerly known as Youth Advisory Council serving D211. This youth leadership group launched their first own podcast, titled Interconnected, last spring. Each episode features YAC members sharing personal stories and discussing social issues relevant to positive youth development. To date, they have recorded four episodes with their latest focusing on racial justice - click here to take a peek.
Another example is Too Good for Drugs, a Youth Prevention Education (YPE) curriculum. This program will continue being offered through Zoom at schools instead of in-person during physical education classes. This fall, health educators will be sure to center around the impact of the pandemic, the role of substances, pressures to use, how to best respond, and healthy alternatives to manage mental health. Youth will also be taught how to use the digital Teen Resource Guide to find resources in their area. The new alcohol prevention communication campaign materials will also be shared online.
Researchers have suggested that people of all ages, including youth, are more prone to using substances during periods of societal and environmental disasters.
This pandemic is surely an opportunity to connect with others and have vulnerable, meaningful conversations about the needs of youth, families, and our communities during this challenging time. After all, the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but rather human connection, as Johann Hari teaches through his popular TedTalk on addiction. In that spirit, we hope that our approaches to prevention bring about impactful social experiences that promote resilience, inspiration, and safety. Prevention is connection.
This year’s team is led by Project Lead, Britt Pisto, and three Project Associates: Eric Baranowski, Dawn Mass and Camille Myers. The overall grant is managed by Michelle Barron, Substance Use Prevention Services Manager.
Read more from our staff:
Castro, R. C. (2020, July 6). Risk of teen substance use may increase while social distancing. Florida International University - FIU News. https://news.fiu.edu/2020/risk-of-teen-substance-use-may-increase-while-social-distancing
Hari, J. (2015, June). Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong. TED Talks.