Conversations are among the most powerful tools parents can use to protect their kids. But, tackling a topic like drugs or alcohol is difficult. Reginia Guess, a student assistance program counselor with Students Taking a Right Stand (STARS), joined us on a recent episode of Community Health Matters to discuss how the organization works to prevent youth substance abuse. View her interview here.
STARS is an evidence-based program to address social and emotional barriers for youth. Counselors work on-site in schools in six middle Tennessee counties throughout the school year to provide education, early intervention and counseling, and to help link students and families to services in the community. And, there are no fees associated with program services!
Youth who need help may seek it out for themselves, or they may be identified as being at risk by school administrators, teachers, peers, family members or guardians. Warning signs that a youth may be abusing substances include:
- Unexplained changes in personality, attitude or appearance
- Sudden mood changes, anger, agitation
- Skipping classes, declining grades, getting in trouble at school
- Acting isolated or withdrawn
- Missing money, valuables or prescription drugs from the home
These problems can accumulate due to anxiety, self-regulation of emotions, the availability of prescription drugs in the home, peer pressure and more.
STARS combats these issues by building on the strengths of the child and family, promoting protective factors, fostering resilience and reducing risk factors. As a visible presence in schools, STARS counselors form collaborate relationships with school counselors and administrators. The typical positive outcomes of students in the program include increased attendance, improved grades, greater attachment to the community and a general step towards a healthier life.
To contact a STARS counselor, visit starsnashville.org or call 615-279-0058. If you are concerned for your child, you may also call the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE or access its parent toolkit at DrugFree.org.