by Comprehensive Staff
April 7, 2016 is National Alcohol Screening Day. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has produced a guide for professionals who work with youth titled “Alcohol Screening & Brief Intervention for Youth” (http://goo.gl/vZxINt).
According to this publication, 1 in 3 children starts drinking by the end of 8th grade. And of the youth who report drinking, half report having been drunk. In addition, adolescence is a time of heightened risk taking, independence seeking, and experimentation, a time when adolescents must cope with dramatic changes in their bodies, feelings, perspectives, and environments. It is a period when an appetite for adventure, risks, excitement, and impulsive behavior seem to reach naturally high levels.
During this period, alcohol can present a special allure to some adolescents for many different reasons. Unfortunately, this attraction occurs at the very time adolescents may not be fully prepared to anticipate all the effects of drinking alcohol and at a time when they are more vulnerable to certain of its adverse consequences.
We know underage drinking is common, risky, and often goes undetected. In addition, alcohol use can be an indicator of other unhealthy behaviors. According to Washington’s Youth Suicide Prevention Program (www.yspp.org), alcohol, and other substance use place youth at higher risk for suicide. Co-occurring mental health issues, common among adolescent alcohol abusers, substantially increases risk for suicide. This makes screening for alcohol use in youth a critical component of youth suicide prevention.
The NIAAA also produces a guide for parents titled “Make a Difference: Talk to Your Child About Alcohol” (http://goo.gl/DegZ). This guide provides practical suggestions for parents on how to discuss alcohol use, and the risks it presents for youth, within the family. Regular screenings for youth alcohol use, along with frank, honest and factual discussions within families, can help reduce youth alcohol use and experimentation, which in turn reduces the risk for youth suicide.
To learn more about suicide prevention and youth mental health issues, attend one of Comprehensive’s upcoming trainings on Suicide Awareness for Everyone or Youth Mental Health First Aid. Dates, times and registration information is available on our website, www.cwcmh.org.