National Prevention Week: A Family Focus with Ashley Sullivan

May 14, 2024

It’s National Prevention Week (NPW)! During this observance, we turn our attention to substance use prevention and mental health promotion, aiming to foster safer, healthier communities in New Hampshire and beyond.

Ashley Sullivan HeadshotThe Partnership is excited to present this guest blog by Ashley Sullivan, Director of Behavioral Health Strategies at Granite United Way in Concord, NH. As both a parent and a substance misuse prevention professional, Ashley shares her personal and professional journey, emphasizing the critical role of family engagement in prevention efforts.

Ashley’s story highlights the power of proactive measures and the impact of supportive environments in breaking cycles of adversity. Read below to explore what prevention means for individuals and communities alike.


The Power of Prevention: A Single Mother’s Journey

As a substance misuse prevention professional, a single mother to twin boys, and someone who has navigated the challenges of low income and state benefits, the concept of prevention holds immense significance in my life. Prevention isn’t just a professional endeavor; it’s a personal commitment that shapes every aspect of my role as a mother and member of my community.

What Prevention Means to Me

To me, prevention is more than just avoiding negative outcomes; it’s about actively fostering positive ones. It’s about equipping individuals, families, and communities with the tools, resources, and support they need to thrive, despite the odds stacked against them. Prevention is about breaking cycles, overcoming barriers, and creating opportunities for growth and resilience.

Family Engagement in Prevention: The Key to Success

One of the most crucial aspects of prevention, especially in the realm of substance misuse, is family engagement. As a single mother, I’ve learned firsthand the importance of actively involving families in prevention efforts. Family involvement isn’t just about attending meetings or receiving information—it’s about creating a supportive and nurturing environment where open communication and mutual understanding thrive.

Family Engagement is Essential in Prevention

Here are some key reasons why:

  • Building Trust and Connection: When parents and caregivers actively engage in prevention efforts, it fosters trust and strengthens the bond between family members. This trust serves as a foundation for honest conversations about sensitive topics like substance misuse.
  • Recognizing Warning Signs: Active family involvement enables parents and caregivers to recognize early warning signs of substance misuse or other risky behaviors in their children. By staying informed and observant, families can intervene early and prevent potential harm.
  • Providing Support and Guidance: Families play a critical role in providing support and guidance to children as they navigate the challenges of adolescence. By being present, listening attentively, and offering unconditional love, parents and caregivers can create a safe space for their children to seek help when needed.

Tips for Parents and Caregivers

female adult with teen boyFor parents and caregivers who may be unsure where to start, here are some practical tips for initiating conversations and fostering family involvement in prevention:

  • Start Early: Begin talking to the youth you care for about substance misuse and other risk factors at an early age. Use age-appropriate language and be honest and straightforward in your discussions.
  • Be Approachable: Create an open and non-judgmental environment where youth feel comfortable coming to you with their questions, concerns, and struggles.
  • Educate Yourself: Stay informed about the latest trends, statistics, and resources related to substance misuse prevention. Knowledge is power, and arming yourself with accurate information empowers you to make informed decisions and guide the youth in your life effectively.
  • Lead by Example: Be a positive role model by demonstrating healthy behaviors and making responsible choices. Your actions speak louder than words, and youth often emulate the behaviors they see in their parents.
  • Seek Support: Don’t be afraid to reach out for support if you’re struggling or need guidance. Whether it’s through local support groups, counseling services, or online resources, there are many avenues available for parents and caregivers to access support and information.

As a single mother who has overcome adversity and embraced the importance of prevention, I urge fellow parents and caregivers to recognize the profound impact they have on the lives of the youth they care for. By actively engaging in prevention efforts, fostering open communication, and providing unwavering support, we can create a brighter and healthier future for our children and our communities. Together, we can break the cycle of substance misuse and build a world where every child has the opportunity to thrive.

Note: Adversity can include toxic stress, abuse, neglect, poverty, maltreatment, substance use disorder or mental health conditions in the home, and exposure to violence, amongst other things; some families face inequities in such experiences attributed to the historical, social, and economic environments in which some families live.

Resources and Supports
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Their website offers a wealth of resources on mental health and substance use disorders, providing information on treatment options, prevention strategies, and support services for individuals and families.
    • Research shows that family support can play a major role in helping a loved one with mental and substance use disorders, SAMHSA offers resources here.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): NIDA provides comprehensive research and information on drug use, addiction, and treatment options. Their resources are designed to help individuals, families, and communities understand and address substance use and addiction.
  • Partnership to End Addiction: offers personalized support and resources for families and individuals affected by addiction. They provide guidance, education, and advocacy to help end addiction and support recovery.
    • Local Parenting Programs
    • Online Forums and Support Groups
  • The Partnership NH: We focus on promoting awareness, preventing substance misuse, and supporting recovery within the state. Check out our website for educational materials and campaign support, including our webpage ‘For Parents and Caregivers’.

National Prevention Week 2024 Social Media Toolkit

The Partnership’s social media toolkit includes sample messages and images to support digital communication in response to youth substance use across NH. The Partnership encourages substance use prevention partners throughout the State to share these campaign materials, contributing to our community’s efforts to educate and support youth substance misuse prevention and positive mental health.

National Prevention Week 2024 Live Series

Join The Partnership on Facebook or LinkedIn May 13th through 17th at 12:15 PM for a series of live interviews with prevention partners throughout the State!

Monday, May 13th: Boots on the Ground - Prevention for All

Behavioral Health Specialists in the Greater Nashua Public Health Region are thinking outside the box when it comes to promoting mental health and preventing substance misuse. Hear about how New Hampshire’s second largest city is approaching community wellness.

Watch the recording!

Tuesday, May 14th: Not Your Regular Classroom

Youth Leadership Through Adventure (YLTA) and Wilderness Youth Leadership Development (WYLD) are two programs developed by ADAPT founder Sean O’Brien. Through experiential learning, team building, and leadership development, participants learn about themselves, others, and substance misuse along the way. Hear from two ADAPT Program Facilitators (Luke and Alyson) about what prevention looks like for them as they lead youth through the outdoors of New Hampshire.

Watch the recording!

Wednesday, May 15th: Live from the Strafford County Addiction Summit

The Partnership streamed LIVE from the Strafford County Addiction Summit. We talked to folks from prevention, recovery, and addiction to hear about and celebrate the work they do to support wellness and prevent substance misuse. 

Watch the recording!

Thursday, May 16th: It Takes a Village - Coalitions to Support Youth and Community Recovery

The Partnership was joined by Mark Lefebvre, the Recovery Program Advisor at Pinetree Institute. Mark is responsible for the development and delivery of services for building community resilience against substance misuse. Mark has been working to build the Greater Portsmouth Recovery Coalition and developing recovery ready communities. His new podcast, “It Takes a Village”, invites us in to have a conversation with him and his guest as they talk about hope and recovery, and put a spotlight on the community’s efforts on addition prevention and recovery.

Watch the recording!

Friday, May 17th: And it Comes Around - The Youth Leadership Cycle

How do you create leaders? Give them a chance to lead! We talk to three youth who have participated in the NH Teen Institute’s Youth Leadership Program who are now volunteering for their programs.

Watch the recording!

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