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Mental Health and Substance Abuse Wellness Event

Hosted by: Horn of Africa Horn of Africa Mental Health Association Mental Health Association

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Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.

Our Communities Talk activity was a virtual discussion with two presenters, a case manager and the CEO & president of the nonprofit organization Horn of Africa Mental Health Association.

Horn of Africa Mental Health Association is a nongovernmental and nonprofit organization dedicated to providing mental health first aid training and awareness for the high schools and higher education specifically within California.

This free event addressed mental health and substance abuse among college students and was held in collaboration with a group of San José State University students within the Public Health department. These students’ goal was to host an event that was relevant, engaging, and of great interest to their peers as part of their capstone project. The event was recorded and hosted here.

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How does alcohol and other drug misuse affect your community?

College students are a vulnerable population: They are more susceptible to mental health issues and are more likely to get involved with risky behaviors. In the spring 2019 issue of Focus, authors Justine Welsh, M.D., Yujia Shentu, Dana B Sarvey noted that “Substance use among college students is associated with numerous negative outcomes including lower academic performance, a higher probability of unemployment after graduation, and an increased risk of committing and experiencing sexual assault.” San José State University recognizes the importance of educating youth about substance abuse by including it in orientation for first-time students new to the school and in the university’s health policies as listed here.

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What goal(s) did you hope to accomplish with your Communities Talk activity?

  • Reduce prevalence of underage drinking and other substances in community
  • Create an ongoing conversation about underage drinking and substance use prevention in the community
  • Foster collaboration between community stakeholders for continued underage drinking and substance use prevention activities
  • Educate youth about supportive methods such as mental health first aid
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What challenge(s) did you face in planning your activity this year?

  • Needed additional resources to conduct activity
  • Unforeseen difficulties when planning our activity
  • Adapting to conducting a virtual activity
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How did you overcome these challenges?

We overcame these challenges by holding a planning meeting that focused on how the virtual event would happen and what strategies we would use to pull off the event in a successful manner that was enjoyable and thought-provoking for the audience. The main challenges that we learned from and overcame were that everyone must expect the unexpected.

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What are your next steps?

  • Expand our coalition with new partnerships in the community
  • Create a public education campaign to raise awareness and/or change behaviors around underage drinking (i.e., create PSAs and other promotional materials)
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Which Communities Talk resources (or other SAMHSA resources) were most helpful for your activity?

  • StopAlcoholAbuse.gov website
  • Communities Talk website
  • Communities Talk toolkits
  • Communities Talk social media content (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)
  • Another 2021 success story, the youth alcohol prevention event at the Barrow Farmer's Market (their myths vs. facts game)
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Who did you involve in your activity planning, and who did your activity impact?

The intended audience is college students, including a group of San José State University students who reached out to Horn of Africa Mental Health Association and another presenter to speak at their school. The planning began in October and culminated in a virtual event that was hosted on November 21, 2021. From start to finish, the student team always kept us in the know and handled everything from the set-up of the event to advertising among their peers. The event started with introductions from the college students, continued with presentations about substance abuse and mental health first aid, and then wrapped up with a collaborative Q&A with a giveaway at the end to thank all the participants for coming to the event. The head count was 30 people, and it was a lively group in which everybody expressed their thoughts about what they learned or were surprised to know about substance abuse and mental health first aid.

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Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the planning or execution of your activities?

Yes. Since school started in person for San José State University students, the student team planned to have this event in person; however, no venues were willing to serve beyond a 15-person capacity. Thus, the event had to be pivoted to online, and the presenters had to reformat their presentations to a more online-friendly option.

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