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New CTC campaign tackles underage drinking on Island
The Mercer Island Youth and Family Services department recently launched its fall “Most of Us” campaign to coincide with the new school year.
Seventy-five percent of the students from Mercer Island High School would rather not drink when they hang out with friends.
Islanders may have recently seen this message and others like it on Island Crest Way sandwich boards or similar posters at Mercer Island businesses this summer.
The displays are part of the City of Mercer Island Youth and Family Service’s Communities that Care (CTC) Coalition’s “Most of Us” campaign. The campaign uses a social norms approach to address underage drinking by correcting misperceptions about youth alcohol use.
“One of the predominant misperceptions that kids — and even some parents — have is that everyone uses alcohol or marijuana during high school. In fact, the majority of Mercer Island High School teens don’t. Our efforts are about correcting misperceptions about what ‘everyone’ does and how ‘everyone’ behaves,” said Mercer Island Youth and Family Service Department Director Cindy Goodwin.
“What’s paramount here is that we don’t point the finger,” said CTC Project Director Derek Franklin. “Underage drinking is a community problem that demands a community solution. That’s why we’re using a social norms approach to reducing underage drinking and drug use: it’s positive, it’s inclusive, and other communities that started down this road earlier are seeing benefits after implementing campaigns like ours.”
Although most Mercer Island middle and high students choose not to drink or to use marijuana, once they reach their senior year of high school, many report regular drinking or frequent binge drinking at rates higher than Washington state averages. Recent results from the Search Institute’s 2010 Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors survey indicate that 58 percent of Mercer Island High School seniors reported having a drink in the past month compared to 41 percent of seniors statewide. The results confirm an ongoing trend of a higher than average 30-day use among Mercer Island seniors.
“Mercer Island is a community where the health and safety of children is a top priority,” said Goodwin. “With the Most of Us campaign, we are working to reverse the trend of underage drinking during senior year and remind the community that most kids aren’t drinking.”
Cities and counties in California, New Mexico, Montana and Minnesota have adopted similar prevention strategies emphasizing positive, majority behaviors among youth that have resulted in significant downward trends in underage substance abuse.
This October, Mercer Islanders will see more of the “Most of Us” campaign throughout the community as CTC re-launches the alcohol and drug prevention program for the 2010-2011 academic year. “Most of Us” messages and materials will appear in various newsletters and print media, public meetings, on posters in the middle and high schools, and on outdoor signs and advertisements.
CTC will also conduct a series of presentations about underage drinking throughout the coming year at events such as its popular Café Conversations program. Presentations on underage drinking will take place on Oct. 4 and 5 during the ninth and 10th grade Parent Peer Group sessions at Mercer Island High School (MIHS). All Mercer Island parents with MIHS teens in these grades are invited to participate.
“Not all teens that use drugs and alcohol will have the same outcomes. However, the negative impact for the kids that develop problems is something we can change. Their lives and futures are important to us,” said Goodwin.
To participate in a Café Conversation about underage drinking and alcohol use prevention, or to subscribe to the CTC’s quarterly newsletter, contact CTC Project Coordinator Sharon Broz at (206) 275-7743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on underage drinking on Mercer Island and how to prevent it, visit www.mercergov.org/ctc.