April 2019

Take the Lead on Alcohol Awareness Month

By Rebecca Balaguer and Jessica Smedley
The month of April signals spring; a month of renewed growth, new beginnings and budding flowers. April is also a month of renewed awareness. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (now Facing Addiction with NCADD) has sponsored Alcohol Awareness Month in April since 1987. This year’s theme is “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow.” Access more information, including a downloadable guide filled with activities about Alcohol Awareness Month, through Facing Addiction with NCAAD.
Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, youth who drink experience higher rates of school absence, poor or failing grades, and have more social problems and legal issues. Underage drinking can also put youth at risk for physical problems, unprotected sexual activity, disruption of normal growth and sexual development, suicide and homicide, memory problems, abuse of other drugs, higher rates of death due to alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related car crashes.
School counselors are positioned to be advocates for Alcohol Awareness Month and can get involved by promoting education about alcohol addiction and its prevention and treatment. Classroom lessons, small group counseling and individual counseling with students can focus on the dangers of underage drinking and excessive drinking at any age. By engaging students in a dialogue about the risks associated with alcohol misuse, school counselors can assist young people in identifying problem drinking and finding resources to get help.
We encourage school counselors to leverage the assistance of their local community agencies in helping promote and spread awareness of alcohol-related issues. Hosting guest speakers to address classes and holding grade-level assemblies are excellent ways to partner with local community providers to help students understand that alcohol addiction prevention is a community-wide effort.
Since drug and alcohol prevention is included in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education, another method for school counselors to address these issues is to partner with health and physical education teachers. Classroom lessons in conjunction with health and PE teachers can focus on alcohol awareness, the dangers of underage drinking, binge drinking and more.

Rebecca Balaguer, MSW, is student assistance counselor at Hillsborough High School. Jessica Smedley, Ed.S., LPC, is director of Guidance with Hillsborough Township Public Schools.