We have all heard the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s so true, isn’t it? There are so many issues today that are jeopardizing the health and well-being of individuals around the globe. The spread of disease, food insecurity, substance use disorder, marked increase in mental health issues, bullying, gun violence, and many of the issues that contribute to individuals experiencing homelessness are all preventable through science-based strategies, funding, and community and political action.
This is National Public Health Week, and today’s theme is recognizing the importance that mental health plays in the overall health of all individuals. Mental health continuously impacts how we think, feel and act. It also plays an important role in our physical and social well-being. Millions of Americans are affected by mental illness, and anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, and depression are some of the most common. Mental health issues and substance use can be related to each other for some people, in some cases, one may cause the other. Prevention and early intervention strategies can reduce the impact of substance use and mental disorders in America’s communities (SAMHSA, 2023).
We know isolation contributes to both mental health and substance use. According to the American Public Health Association, cases of mental illness have recently risen in adults and children due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rates of anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder have increased, particularly for communities of color.
Being connected to family, friends, and community members is positive for mental health and substance use prevention.
The Power of Prevention Podcast has focused on the importance of mental health and substance use prevention in a number of its episodes. As we are drawing to the close of National Public Health Week, we would like to share some quotes from our guests and we invite you to listen to them in their entirety. At the conclusion of each episode, host Christin D’Ovidio asks each guest for their definition of prevention. Here are some of the powerful responses.
“Prevention is preventing things before they start. It’s also preventing things from getting worse. I believe there are steps we can take to improve our quality of life. For me, that’s what it’s really all about. Small action steps can make a difference in your life.” – Paula Smith, Director of Southern New Hampshire Area Health Education Center (AHEC)
“Prevention is a choice to take responsibility to say, okay, this stops right now. I might not be able to cure this, but I can manage it so I can live a better quality of life. Speak with people who may have more options. Choose the step that will have a positive outcome. It’s more than physical and mental, it is spiritual and emotional. Whatever baby step you can take, that’s a step and that’s to be celebrated.” – Lisa Stockwell, Master Trainer
“Prevention is equipping people with a few key skills as early as possible. One skill is the ability to tolerate uncertainty, that it’s okay to not know everything – to, as I say, roll around in the ‘might’s and maybes’ of life. That’s preventative. The second skill is just emotional management and emotional literacy. The ability to put words to your feelings, the ability to talk to people about what’s going on inside of you. Then the third skill is giving kids the opportunity to solve problems and develop autonomy.” – Lynn Lyons, Psychotherapist, Public Speaker, Coach, Author, and Award-winning Podcaster
“I believe prevention has the power to completely eradicate violence. When we prioritize social-emotional learning, it creates a culture of empathy and respect for one another. And it models strong communication and builds really wonderful interpersonal skills, which results in healthier relationships.” – Joi Smith, Program Director at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
“I think of prevention as a form of empowerment for the folks who are receiving this knowledge and these tools. This is giving them the resources they need to eliminate violence in their communities and to be prepared if they experience this form of violence, to know what to do and where to go, and what is and isn’t okay.” – Emily Provencher, Prevention Coordinator at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
“Prevention is understanding the source of a problem, figuring out how upstream we can get and intervening in ways that promote a different outcome.” – Felicity Barnard, Director of the New Hampshire Pediatric Improvement Partnership
“Prevention is the opportunity to keep something from happening through accessing or using tools or strategies, because it doesn’t just happen, right? Something’s got to intervene. It’s a bit like redirecting the course of time in a positive trajectory in order to avoid something that could be harmful or negative from happening.” – Melissa Lee, Certified Prevention Specialist and Associate Field Specialist and Project Director with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension
“I define prevention as stopping something from happening. I think youth get themselves in trouble because of what’s happening in their life that they can’t control. If you give them the tools to change what’s happening in their life or to look at it in a different way, even if they can’t change it, then you’re stopping them from making the decisions that put them on a different path.” – Nicole Rodler, Juvenile Division Coordinator at the Rochester Police Department
“I look at prevention as the ability to work with youth to help them resolve an issue that puts them on a positive path. To me, that is what prevention really is in juvenile diversion. Regardless of the circumstances, we’re going to work with them and get them moving in a positive way. Whatever is going on in their lives, we’re going to shore that up and move them forward.” – Diane Casale, Program Coordinator at the Greater Derry Juvenile Diversion Juvenile Court Diversion
“Prevention is anticipating the risks that can exist in a particular sphere. In the case of alcohol and substance use and modifying behaviors to mitigate those risks so that people are kept healthy for as long as they can be. By healthy, I mean not just alive, but functional, able to engage and able to enjoy life. So prevention to me is maintaining that health by identifying and modifying risk.” – Margaret Frankhasuer, Aging Specialist with JSI Research and Training Institute Inc.
“Prevention is providing education so people can make informed choices around how they want to manage risk as well. I think as adults, we need to know what our choices are in order to make decisions for ourselves, But we need to have all of the information and the information needs to be right.” – Anne Marie Olsen-Hayward, Coordinator at Referral, Education, Assistance and Prevention Program (REAP)
“I think of prevention as a verb. It’s an action. It’s something you can do to support yourself, your child, your neighbor, your community, the state, that creates more nurturing ground for connection. That creates more nurturing ground support, whether that means talking about them positively, de-stigmatizing them in a way that’s resilience building and engages families.” – Nathan Fink, Advancement Director at New Hampshire Children’s Trust
“I do a lot with harm reduction in the work that we do. When I think about prevention, even recovery support services, I think of prevention for the next generation because if a parent stays in recovery and sustains their recovery, then the environment is better for that family as a whole — Anything that can improve the life course trajectory of a person or a child, even at the very smallest, incremental place.” – Michelle Lennon, Executive Director at the Greater Tilton Area Family Resource Center
We have been fortunate to work with so many smart, capable, and outstanding prevention professionals throughout the state. We know their work is positively impacting Granite Staters from the south up to the northern border and from the seacoast to Vermont. These experts are making daily contributions to the public health of New Hampshire through their prevention efforts. Please join us in thanking them and celebrating their many accomplishments.
The Power of Prevention Podcast series provides important information about the prevention of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances. Produced by The Partnership @drugFreeNH, each episode features some of the great work taking place in the Granite State in the prevention arena. The Power of Prevention Podcast series is available on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcast, or at The Partnership’s website. You can subscribe to the series wherever you listen.