MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - May is Mental Health Month, and this week is National Prevention Week, a week to focus on preventing substance abuse and promoting mental health.
“We want to involve our community and raise awareness about mental health issues and implementing strategies,” said Beverly Johnson, Director of Prevention Services at Alabama Department of Mental Health. "In addition to that, we want to foster partnerships with our federal partners, with national organizations that are dedicated to behavioral and public health, and also to promote and disseminate quality behavioral health resources or publications.”
Just this week, WalletHub released the results of a study looking into the states with the biggest drug problems. Alabama ranked at the top of the list of states with the most opioid prescriptions per 100 people.
Each year, National Prevention Week includes daily themes to focus on major substance use and mental health topics.
“Across the country, individuals are actually doing particular things for each day,” Johnson explained. “On Monday we do prescription drugs and opioid misuse. On Tuesday we did underage drinking and youth alcohol misuse. On Wednesday illicit drug use and youth marijuana use, then tobacco use, to include the cigarettes and vaping, and then suicide prevention. Each day of the week there is a specific area of focus from a national perspective.”
National Prevention Week this year is very different. The coronavirus pandemic has caused events to be canceled.
“On Monday, we were actually preventing prescription drug use, and we were disseminating medication disposal pouches. Our traditional approach would be a prescription drug take-back opportunity for individuals to safely dispose of their own unused, unwanted, or expired medications," Johnson said.
In order to practice safety and follow the CDC and ADPH guidelines, they were not allowed to their traditional approaches.
"So we had to cancel those activities but what we do want the community to be aware of is that we are providing multiple alternatives to that. So now individuals don’t have to leave their house. They can safely dispose of those medications within their home by utilizing those medication disposal pouches. So that is one example,” Johnson said.
Social media is a bigger focus for National Prevention Week this year.
“Individuals have an opportunity to do a prevention challenge, and utilize the #PreventionHappensHere,” said Johnson. “Talk about what prevention means to them, and what prevention aspect they have to bring to the table. And then it also opens up opportunities for individuals to be creative and establish their own methods of what prevention means to them.”
You can find out more information here.