Red Ribbon Week helps with drug-abuse prevention

By NATHAN HOWELL | Special to the Reporter

Compact 2020, a program designed to address teen substance abuse, asked communities and schools to participate in Red Ribbon Week during the week of Oct. 23.

Red Ribbon Week is a decades old program created by the National Family Partnership that is designed to bring visibility through campaigns in schools and communities, best recognized by the wearing of a red ribbon.

“Red Ribbon Week raises awareness of drug use and the problems related to drugs faced by individuals, families, and communities,” read a statement from Compact 2020. “This annual health observance encourages parents, educators, business owners, and other community organizations to promote drug-free lifestyles.”

It’s something Compact 2020 Executive Director Clay Hammac knows is important for teens and others to understand.

“Our students are facing a challenge unlike anything we’ve encountered before; they are faced with a social dilemma of virtual connections and anxiety-driven desires to stay connected through multiple platforms of social influence,” Hammac said.

Bringing attention to these issues is important in creating a sustainable environment for children to progress through life. Hammac also said it is especially important to address the root cause of drug abuse in teens as well.

“We have seen first-hand the consequences this pressure has had on our talented students,” he said. “We often see students struggling with the onset of clinical anxiety and depression as a result of these virtual interactions on various social media platforms. This tragically results, sometimes, in self medicating as a result of coping with these challenges. “Red Ribbon Week is an opportunity for our community to speak against drug use and addiction, in solidarity.”

Cedric Leonard, investigator for the Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force, led this years’ efforts in the county.

“Red Ribbon Week encourages our entire community to adopt healthy, drug-free lifestyles,” Leonard said. “The campaign brings together parents, schools, and businesses as we look for ways to keep kids and communities drug free.”

To encourage participation in celebrating the week, schools held different dress up days such as wearing as much red as possible as well as many other days like hat day, pajama day and others.

Each school was also asked to have students between fourth and 12th grades make posters to help spread drug-free messages. Those posters were part of a contest with winners and prizes all to help prevent drug abuse by school-aged children.