by Christyn Bergquist
From Nancy Regan’s “Just Say No” to the more recent “Above the Influence,” there have been many well-known campaigns geared toward warning young people to stay away from drugs and alcohol. At the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the office of Health Education and Promotion is launching a new campaign: “Have A Plan.”
The concept of “Have A Plan” is based on mindful and intentional decision-making. The “Have A Plan” campaign was realized when we acknowledged the decisions that students continuously make regarding alcohol, drugs and other hot button topics. We committed to encouraging students to think about their choices and create a plan for their approach before they find themselves in risky situations. Instead of saying “don’t do this” or “do that,” we want to give students as much information as possible in hopes that it will resonate with them or spark a change in their thought process that influences positive choices.
To promote the “Have A Plan” campaign we created ten posters, each of which are dedicated to a unique topic: getting involved, going out, sleep, getting consent, eating well, staying active, quitting smoking, taking medications, studying and managing stress. Each poster contains suggestions for making decisions related to the topic. Each suggestion is intentionally short and to the point because students are unlikely to stop and read much longer text while on-the-go. Our strategy is to have the posters displayed all over campus and integrate them into university-owned social media outlets so that students are exposed to our messaging multiple times. We hope that repeat exposure will encourage students to more seriously consider topics they may not have reflected on previously. With this reflection we hope to influence them to have a plan for these situations.
One of the topics addressed in the poster series is “Taking Medications” (pictured). We know that most students who use prescription drugs for nonmedical use get these drugs from a friend. We wanted to make it clear that students should not share their medications with others and that this is a specific violation in our conduct code. As we discuss this posters with students, we emphasize the impact that choosing to share their medication or taking medication not prescribed to them may have on their college career. Many students arrive on campus without thinking about how they will manage their medication. They may not expect a peer to be interested in using their medication. Hopefully, through this campaign, we will raise awareness of this possibility and be prepared to respond.
As we progress into the first semester of this campaign, we are integrating the concept of “Have A Plan” into many of our outreach efforts, including class room presentations and campus programming. Our goal is to influence students to be prepared with a plan and the ability to make a mindful decision and response in high risk situations, minimizing their involvement in high risk behavior and increasing their potential for success.
Christyn Bergquist is the Coordinator for Health Education at UMass Lowell. Her focus is on alcohol and other drugs and mindfulness practices. Christyn earned her MBA from Nichols College and her BS in sociology from University of Massachusetts Lowell.