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Campus organizations promote Alcohol Awareness Month

BY NATALIE BERKUS
Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 10, 2010

With the change in weather, more students hit the bars on the weekends and play beer pong on their porches. But this month, some students are trying to increase awareness regarding alcohol abuse.

April marks Alcohol Awareness Month — an annual campaign that raises awareness about alcoholism and encourages individuals suffering from substance addiction to seek help. In honor of the movement, various campus organizations are sponsoring substance abuse prevention programs and activities that offer alternatives to drinking throughout the month.

As part of the awareness month, University Counseling and Psychological Services is spearheading a campaign to provide treatment for students who believe they have substance abuse problems.

Christine Asidao, CAPS assistant director of outreach and education, said CAPS provides online screenings for students who feel they may be abusing substances like alcohol or drugs but do not want to go physically to the CAPS center to seek advice.

“(The website) is not too threatening for students just because some students are too scared to come in, and they can decide ‘you know what, I really need to talk to someone now,’ ” Asidao said.

In light of Alcohol Awareness Month, Screening For Mental Health — a non-profit organization that provides mental health screenings for college students, hospitals and government agencies — sent a free and anonymous questionnaire to University students last week to help them assess their drinking habits and inform them of ways to cut down their alcohol consumption.

Ariela Edelson, communications associate for Screening for Mental Health, said the survey was not intended to prevent students from drinking but rather to educate students about the risks of drinking and offer advice about how to help people experiencing alcohol addiction.

“(The survey) is meant to raise awareness about the issue and to teach people how to identify a drinking problem and how to identify a problem in a friend or loved one,” Edelson said.

In addition to online screenings, CAPS is collaborating with University Health Service to match students with a treatment that best suits their individual needs.

Mary Jo Desprez, UHS alcohol and other drug policy and prevention administrator, said UHS works with CAPS to form a plan to help the student on his or her road to recovery.

“If someone comes into a session, and they say, ‘I really want to stop,’ we would work with CAPS and that person in collaboration to make sure that we are putting out the best plan for that student’s situation,” Desprez said.

UHS is also involved with other programs that raise awareness about drugs and alcohol like Stay in the Blue — a program designed to help students monitor their blood alcohol contents — and BASICS — a free two-session alcohol assessment and education program that allows students to discuss their alcohol use with professionals.

While these organizations are sponsored by the University, there are many programs related to drug and alcohol use that are run by students on campus. One organization, Students for Recovery, offers support for students recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

“We’re an organization that exists to reduce the stigma of recovering on campus, raise awareness throughout campus and shed light on a marginalized group that gets neglected and pushed to the side,” Matt Raad, a graduate student in the School of Social Work, who is the president of Students for Recovery said.

For Alcohol Awareness Month, Raad said the group will be promoting its cause on the Diag with sack races and pie eating contests, as well as sponsoring a free yoga night open to all students.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a student organization that encourages students to push for measured drug polices, is also commemorating Alcohol Awareness Month. The group is making and distributing what the organization dubs “NOMA,” or Night Of Morning After bags. The packages will contain information on alcohol use, blood alcohol content and emergency phone numbers for University services that provide counseling.

LSA senior Chris Chiles is the founder of the University’s chapter of SSDP and serves on the national board of directors for the organization. Chiles said the group’s work during Alcohol Awareness Month fits in with the organization’s larger vision.

“SSDP doesn’t encourage or condemn drug use in any form, whether its alcohol (or drugs),” Chiles said. “Certainly there are exceptions with medical use when appropriate, but…I like to think that SSDP works to (prevent) harm caused by all drugs as well as policies surrounding them.”