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A Message That Bears Repeating: “Talk. They Hear You.”


May 12–17 of this year was the second annual observation of National Prevention Week, coordinated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The theme for May 13 was Prevention of Underage Drinking. SAMHSA marked this day by launching “Talk. They Hear You.”, a new national media campaign encouraging parents to talk to their children, ages 9 to 15, about alcohol and why they should avoid it. According to SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., “As our youth and young adults face challenges, we—as a community—need to effectively communicate with them in every way possible about the risks of underage drinking so that they have the necessary tools to make healthy and informed choices.”

SAMHSA is looking to you and your local partners to ensure that your community benefits from the campaign. The new campaign includes television, radio, and print public service announcements as well as messages for delivery online and through social media. A complete toolkit is available with user-friendly samples and easy-to-follow guidelines for community-based organizations. Parents can access resources specifically created for them, including scripts and tips for answering difficult questions, factsheets, and other materials.

Why talk? And do they really hear you?

But why should you, or SAMHSA, keep telling parents to talk to their children about alcohol? The answer is simple: When it comes to preventing underage drinking, there are some messages that bear repeating. In fact, it’s important, even necessary, that we remind parents of their power to influence their children’s decisions about alcohol use. As the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has pointed out in Parenting to Prevent Childhood Alcohol Use, “Research suggests that, regardless of parenting style, adolescents who are aware that their parents would be upset with them if they drank are less likely to do so.” The same research found that while most teens do not think their parents should decide what clothes they wear or which music they listen to, about 80 percent believed parents should have a say about whether they try alcohol. Adolescents who thought their parents should not have this authority were significantly more likely to engage in underage drinking.

As you continue to promote new and stronger underage drinking laws that make your community safer and healthier, it is important that you encourage parents and others to reinforce your messages. The next time a community member asks, “What can we do to stop kids from drinking?,” you can respond by saying, “Talk. They Hear You.” and then suggest they visit SAMHSA’s underage drinking web page or access the link through your own website.

A message for you and your organization: “Talk. They Hear You.”

When it comes to underage drinking prevention, you and your organization are the voices that others listen to and listen for. So the new campaign’s theme of “Talk. They Hear You.” is directed at you, too. Ask local media outlets to provide air time and print space for campaign messages. Share the campaign banner ads, buttons, and social media messages through your website. Promote “Talk. They Hear You.” to that all-important parent/caregiver audience. Encourage local schools to help by advertising the availability of campaign materials on their websites.

SAMHSA urges you and your organization to take full advantage of the free, customizable messages, materials, and resources that make up “Talk. They Hear You.” Complete this address form to receive one free kit of campaign resources. Order now—quantities are limited.

The more your community supports and participates in the campaign, the more it can bolster and improve the success of your underage drinking prevention efforts. With your help, SAMHSA’s new “Talk. They Hear You.” national public education campaign can give parents and caregivers the information and resources they need to start talking to children early and often about the dangers of underage drinking.

“Talk. They Hear You.” assistance for SAMHSA grantees

SAMHSA grantees can request technical assistance in implementing the campaign by sending an e-mail to or by leaving a voice message at 1–866–419–2514.