To the Editor:

October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and as usual, the Healthy Lamoille Valley coalition has been hard at work on youth substance abuse prevention in our community. Earlier this year we launched the LiveYourWhy campaign to promote protective factors that are known to reduce youth substance misuse and improve mental health such as, self-care, making connections, asking for help and being creative.

This campaign brought weekly themed messages to engage students around the region through lunch bag stickers, social media and the Healthy Lamoille Valley website.

This fall we’re continuing to partner with local schools to continue building these protective factors through the new school year as students and families navigate learning during COVID-19. Bethany Turnbaugh, student assistance coordinator at Lamoille Union High School, writes that her school “has been exploring what living your why looks like with our high school students. From sports, walks, spending time with animals, friends and families, laughing, music and so much more, Lamoille Union students are finding what keeps them healthy in times of stress. Freshmen students have been having conversations about self-care, resources within the school, connections to trusted adults and healthy habits. Next up, our sophomores will explore similar conversations and our whole school will participate in a photo campaign to promote prevention factors and what living your why looks like.”

Margo Warden, student assistance counselor at Peoples Academy middle level writes, “Students were greeted by a LiveYourWhy bulletin board upon their return to school. Each student also received a water bottle emblazoned with the message, ‘How can you be your best self — alcohol, vape and drug free?’ We asked students to think about and identify what makes them feel healthy, connected and happy. They were encouraged to engage in these healthy activities and protective factors whenever they felt bored, stressed, distracted or needed a lift.”

Brian Duda is the new youth coordinator for the organization. He is a recent graduate of Northern Vermont University Johnson in psychology. He was previously an intern with the group.

Jessica Bickford, coordinator

Healthy Lamoille Valley

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