Substance Use Disorders (SUD) Prevention and Mental Health (MH) Promotion through School-Based Services
Within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) Guide, school-based prevention services are identified as an important part of the community domain. In an effort to provide safe and effective learning environments, SAMHSA supports SUD prevention and MH promotion efforts in school-based settings.
Despite the best efforts of school administrators and educators, many students report school campus challenges associated with bullying, violence, alcohol use, and substance misuse. School-based prevention services that are based on research, evidence, and national best practices can alleviate some of these risks and contribute to a safer, healthier educational environment. Model and Promising programs for school-based settings and additional prevention-oriented evidence-based resources are a great place to start planning for a comprehensive community-based prevention strategy. This is time well utilized! A healthy school climate has been associated with an improvement in behavioral and academic outcomes.
School-based services are additionally identified under the social drivers of health (SDOH) as part of the Education Access and Quality domain. Under Healthy People 2030, an SDOH objective within this domain is to “Increase the inclusion of interprofessional prevention education in the curricula of health professions programs.” This objective recognizes the importance of having evidence-based interventions in school-based settings. Within the Education Access and Quality SDOH domain, prevention professionals and programs are important in supporting increased attendance, graduation rates, and overall academic success. This means that not only are school-based services a fundamental component of effective prevention planning, but so are the dedicated prevention professionals who lead the implementation of these critical efforts!
Blindness Awareness Month
October is Blindness Awareness Month, an important time to increase knowledge of and support for those who navigate the challenges associated with blindness and vision loss. Did you know that vision disability is one of the top ten disabilities among adults in the U.S., and one of the most prevalent disabilities among children?
We live in a built environment that is designed for the needs of able-bodied people. Unfortunately, this frequently results in inequities and injustices for those living with disabilities, including those who are navigating vision loss or blindness. Individuals living with vision impairments report experiencing stigma, marginalization, and stereotyping in day-to-day life. This impacts the diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) values that are prioritized under Advance Behavioral Health Prevention California (ABHPC) and primary prevention priorities in California.
What can prevention professionals do to learn more about vision loss and blindness? How can the prevention field improve DEIB outcomes for those who are experiencing these conditions? Check out the resources below to learn more!
Learning more about vision loss and blindness:
- National Library of Medicine: Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on Public Health Approaches to Reduce Vision Impairment and Promote Eye Health; Welp A, Woodbury RB, McCoy MA, et al., editors. Washington DC: National Academies Press (US); 2016 Sep 15.
- Prevent Blindness: The Prevalence of Visual Acuity Loss or Blindness in the United States
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The Burden of Vision Loss
Considerations for enhancing DEIB outcome for those living with vision loss or blindness:
- National Federation of the Blind: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
- CDC: Social Determinants of Health, Health Equity, and Vision Loss
- National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health: Children’s Vision Equity Alliance
Bullying Prevention Month
Did you know that nearly one in every four students in the U.S. report that they have been bullied at school, and over 40% of students who have already been bullied reported they think it will happen again? The CDC defines bullying as “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths, who are not siblings or current dating partners that involved an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.”
Bullying has major consequences for youth and is considered a form of childhood adversity. It can take place in many forms (i.e., physical, verbal, and social) and occur in various settings (i.e., in school, online, in social networking). Associated consequences with bullying include an increased risk of physical injury, self-harm, social and emotional distress, anxiety and depression, and death. It has also been demonstrated to negatively impact sleep, academic achievement, and school dropout rates.
Risks of bullying extend beyond those who experience bullying behaviors. Research shows that youth who bully others are at an increased risk of experiencing academic challenges, engaging in substance use, and experiencing violence during adolescence and adulthood. Youth who both bully others and experience bullying themselves experience the most significant bullying consequences and are at an increased risk for several negative behavioral health outcomes related to mental health and substance use.
While concerns about the effects of bullying are valid, there are effective prevention strategies that can be implemented. The CDC has published A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated Risk Behaviors that outlines prevention strategies and considerations for youth bullying. Most importantly, stopping bullying before it starts is very important. Here are some strategies that can be used to prevent youth bullying, as identified by the CDC:
- Promote family environments that support healthy development. This plays a key role in establishing a foundation for long-term physical, emotional, social, and behavioral health, including a youth’s ability to communicate, resolve conflict, and manage behavior.
- Provide quality education early in life. Early childhood education has been associated with improving youth cognitive social and emotional development, increasing the likelihood youth will experience safe relationships and environments, and lowering the rates of problem behaviors later in life.
- Strengthen youth’s skills. Skillsets related to communication, problem solving, empathy, impulse control, conflict resolution and management, and emotional regulation and management are all critical protective factors in navigating risky situations, including youth violence and bullying.
- Connect youth to caring adults and activities. Relationships with trusted adults have been associated with improving youth decision making processes and a reduced risk for involvement in risky behaviors, including violence, substance use, and bullying.
- Create protective environments. Community-level prevention efforts, such as changes to policies and modifications to the social and/or physical aspects of settings can reduce the likelihood of youth violence and bullying and other prevention-related risk factors.
- Intervene to lessen harms and prevent future risk. Many youth who engage in bullying and violence have histories of trauma, conduct problems, and other problem behaviors. Interventions that address risk factors, interrupt the continuation of challenging behaviors, and restore resilience can decrease the likelihood of ongoing bullying or the escalation of further violence.