• Let’s Talk About It: Importance of prevention


    (09/25/2020) We hear the phrase “new normal” being used often these days, and for many of us, we are trying to figure out what that really means and what normal looks like.  


    The current new normal for those of us who work with students needing chemical health support is trying to figure out how to get to those students who are struggling with substance use or misuse during these challenging times. For those of us who work in prevention, we are trying to figure out the best way to connect and support students and families while trying to find creative ways of doing so since normal is no longer applicable. Our contact with students face-to-face is limited — but that does not mean the need is not there. We continue to assess the needs and connect in ways that we have never experienced. 


    It’s important that our students and their families know where to turn if they need support. At Anoka-Hennepin, we continue to be committed to providing services and support both in the schools and in the community.       


    One question that I get often is: “How do I know if my student needs chemical health support?”  My response is often the same: “What have you noticed lately?” This is where it gets tricky.  


    • Have you noticed mood swings? 
    • Has your student been isolating more?  
    • Have you noticed some unusual smells (often sweet-smelling, but not always)?  
    • Has your student been sleeping more?  
    • Are they taking care of themselves and eating as usual? 


    How do you know, as a parent, if it is typical teenage behavior versus something bigger?  


    These are big questions and should be asked. I suggest that as a parent or caregiver, take this time to make a commitment to connect with your student in a way you may not have done before. Doing so will allow you to really get in there and have some conversations that you may not have had otherwise. It will also give you an opportunity to intervene more quickly if needed and to connect your student with support if the need arises. It may be helpful to ask your student if you can have the conversation, even starting it by saying, “Let’s talk about it!” When the conversations happen organically, they often tend to be more meaningful and valued. This is when we are able to make the biggest impact.


    Next month I will share some exciting news regarding our support and services around chemical health. We are in the final stages of planning and implementation and I am excited about the collaborations we have with those in the community. As a district, we continue to look at ways to help prevent, educate and support our students in order for them to be successful both in and out of the school setting. 

    If you have any questions, concerns or comments feel free to contact me at 763-506-1145 or colleen.oneil@ahschools.us.


    Colleen O'Neil










    Colleen O’Neil, LADC, CPP
    Anoka-Hennepin School District Chemical Health Prevention Specialist
    Phone: 763-506-1145
    Email: colleen.oneil@ahschools.us


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