Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention program in the nation, reaching millions of young people each year. This year’s event will take place October 23-31.
According to the Red Ribbon Week website, this event is an ideal way for people and communities to unite and take a visible stand against drugs.
Red Ribbon Week was started when drug traffickers in Mexico City murdered DEA agent Kiki Camarena in 1985. This began the continuing tradition of displaying red ribbons as a symbol of intolerance toward the use of drugs. The mission of the Red Ribbon Campaign is to present a unified and visible commitment towards the creation of a Drug-Free America.
National Family Partnership is the sponsor of this annual celebration. They are helping citizens across the country come together to keep children, families and communities safe, healthy and drug-free, through parent training, networking, and sponsoring events.
With over 30 annual events having taken place, you might ask, “Is Red Ribbon Week effective?” According to Peggy Sapp, President of National Family Partnership, consider the following:
• Red Ribbon Week is an environmental strategy, which means it doesn’t just affect a small group but usually goes beyond schools, churches and other groups into the broader community.
• Red Ribbon Week is designed to be an awareness campaign that gets information to the general public about the dangers of drug use.
• Red Ribbon Week is designed to get people talking to other people and working on activities that will help rebuild a sense of community and common purpose.
• Red Ribbon Week is designed to help parents and schools deliver an effective drug prevention curriculum.
• Red Ribbon Week is designed to create critical mass, which is necessary to reduce destructive social norms/behaviors and promote positive social norms/behaviors.
• Red Ribbon Week is designed to be positive and fun, two things necessary to maintain good mental health.
Schools can benefit from curriculum available on the official Red Ribbon Week website, www.redribbon.org. Incorporating substance use prevention education into daily classes such as health is an ideal way to bring awareness to students and promote prevention.
Parents should also access the website for great ideas about talking to children of any age about the dangers of substance use. Children of parents who talk to their teens regularly about drugs are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don’t; however, only 25 percent of teens report having these conversations.
Alcohol and other forms of drug abuse in this country have reached epidemic stages, and it is imperative that visible, unified prevention education efforts by community members be launched to eliminate the demand for drugs.
Please join Youth First this week as we promote the importance of prevention and educating our children, families and communities about the dangers of substance use.
This column is written by Diane Braun, project manager for Youth First, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families, provides 64 Master’s level social workers to 90 schools in 11 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First’s school social work and after school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.