Video lets youngsters see some consequences of abusing alcohol and drugs

August 08, 1993|By Stephen A. Ward | Stephen A. Ward,Contributing Writer

Squealing like a small train, about 15 kids roared into the Community Center at Englewood Village Apartments in Edgewood Wednesday for a quick video on another balmy day.

However, this video entitled "Scared, Sad and Mad," dealt with matters of consequence that could have a direct impact on their young lives. It was about alcohol and drug abuse.

Presented by Harford County Drug-Alcohol Impact Program (DAIP), it showed substance abuse in families and its potential impact on these wide-eyed children, ages 2 to 12.

Lisa Lindley, a drug-alcohol counselor for Harford County, summarized for the children what they would see on the video.

One 10 year-old boy responded to questions about alcoholism. "It's very scary," he said. Another 9-year-old boy quickly joined the discussion. "I see it on TV," he said just before watching the video.

The video, depicted a young rabbit, who was confused by his alcoholic father's constant drinking. Soon the long-eared bunny befriended several children and shared his feelings and frustrations about his father's condition.

Finally, the conversation about adult drinking led the tiny animal to asked his friend: Was it the rabbit's fault that his father drank too much? The obvious answer: of course not.

In addition to getting emotional support from his friends, the rabbit also learned that other people and agencies are available to help his father and his family.

During the video, none of the children moved. Curious eyes were riveted on the small screen and its powerful message. The video's point to the children was direct. "If mom or dad has a [drinking] problem, it's not their [the children's] fault," said Ms. Lindley.

They were told that if there is an alcohol- or substance-abuse problem in their family, there are programs that can help. If

something is

wrong, find an alcohol-abuse counselor, teacher or a relative and talk with them.

This message was emphasized by Ms. Lindley, who joined the DAIP program about three years ago.

DAIP takes a community approach to substance abuse. Its efforts focus on preventing the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Prevention strategies include education, information, referral, training and various support groups.

DAIP also offers minigrants to communities, workshops for youth and their parents and ideas for community abuse programs.

Community approach to substance abuse can have a positive impact, Ms. Lindley said. "I believe it gives . . . basics for any child to talk about feelings and choice-making."

Statistically, Harford County is following the spiraling national trend on substance abuse.

According to DAIP statistics, there were 1,188 adult treatment admissions for substance abuse in Harford County in 1988. In fiscal year 1992 there were 1,703, an increase of 44 percent.

But the focus Wednesday was to keep children from becoming one of those statistics. After the presentation, one parent and some youngsters spoke about the serious problems that face the youth and families of the county.

Marie Mendoza, who moved here from New York City about three months ago, spoke candidly and her two daughters listened.

"I want them to be aware of the drugs and alcohol," she said. "I think this program is really great. I think it's great to educate these kids and get it to the adults. Sometimes, kids can have their way with certain things and maybe this is a way of getting it to the parents."

Ms. Mendoza had a first-hand look at families with alcohol-abuse problems in New York City. "I will not touch a beer; I will not touch wine," she said. In addition, Ms. Mendoza isn't naive about her two young daughters, ages 9 and 4. "I'm sure they've been exposed to it [drugs and alcohol] more often than we know," she said.

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