Many students have memories of drug education programming they’ve experienced. Some might even recall Red Ribbon weeks, which take place each year from October 23rd through October 31st. The National Family Partnership (NFP) (of which Nancy Reagan was honorary chair) started the campaign in 1988 as a response to the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena in 1985. The premise behind Red Ribbon week is for young people to commit to a drug-free lifestyle, demonstrating this commitment by wearing a red ribbon. At that time, they encouraged communities to wear the ribbons, “ . . . as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the killing and destruction caused [sic] by drugs in America.”
Despite the fact that young people find Red Ribbon Weeks forgettable as a teaching tool and ineffective in providing any education about drug use, organizations like the NFP and the Drug Enforcement Administration continue to promote them. This year, The DEA has partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to host a Red Ribbon Week PSA Contest, asking for colleges and universities to submit 30-60 second videos, “. . . showcasing the underlying message behind Red Ribbon Week—commitment to a healthy, drug-free lifestyle, especially among college students. . . to demonstrate how students are taking action to prevent alcohol abuse and the non-medical use of prescription stimulants on their campus and to inspire and challenge others to take action to prevent alcohol abuse and the non-medical use of prescription stimulants among college students.”
Here at SSDP, we recognize that violence related to drugs is a result of the War on Drugs, and not the drugs themselves, as the NFP seems to believe. Additionally, we believe in science-based harm reduction approaches to drug education, not forgettable one-time assemblies or ineffective “do good” campaigns that provide little to no support or education to the students who need it most (and most often serve to further stigmatize and marginalize people who use drugs). As such, we are launching our very own PSA contest!!
The SSDP Just Say Know Harm Reduction PSA Contest will focus on how our students utilize harm reduction to keep their peers and their communities safe with regard to drug consumption and the collateral consequences of the War on Drugs. We are asking for YOU wonderful SSDP rock-star (and/or your chapter) to create a 30-60 second PSA video and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org by 6:00 pm EST on Friday, November 10th. Each video submission is worth 15 points in the CAT (under “submit content for the blog”).
Once received, the video will be reviewed by our Drug Education Manager and our SSDP certified Peer Educators. Winners will be notified toward the end of November, and the winning videos will be featured in a blog post and shared via our social media channels.
For examples of good PSAs, check out these videos created by alum, Frances Fu, as the Drug Policy Dealer, and these anti-stigma PSAs from the Harm Reduction Action Center. Looking for some resources or talking points for your PSA? Look no further than our own Just Say Know Peer Education Program for several resources or contact email@example.com with questions.
— Vilmarie Fraguada Narloch, PsyD, SSDP Drug Education Manager