Encouraging Teens to Look out for Their Peers
We all know that youth are dealing with a lot of peer pressure. Few kids are immune to this invisible force that can be subtle in its manifestations but brutal in its effects. The simple desire to be liked or fit in with a group of friends can influence an individual’s values and actions in dangerous ways. Peer pressure is effective in convincing youth to take part in risky activities like drug use and sex and it’s also in full force in convincing teens to stay silent when they see their friends taking serious risks.
Maybe there were days when teens could get by with standing silently on the sidelines. But those days are gone. This is the age of fentanyl and literally hundreds of other dangerous drugs. This is when when marijuana and its concentrates are strong enough to cause hallucinations and psychotic breaks. And this is the time when youth must be taught to look out for each other – even to the point of making dangerous behavior known to adults who are in a position to help.
Why Don’t They Speak Up?
We all have moments when we’re just not sure not how to proceed. We know someone is in trouble or harming themselves – should we intervene or not? There are dozens of ways we convince ourselves that it’s okay to stay silent.
Maybe we’ve come up with excuses like these:
It’s none of my business
I don’t want to get her in trouble with her parents (or school or the law).
It’s her life, not mine.
I’ll talk to him later, if it gets worse.
He didn’t tell on me when I got into that mess before.
Everyone will hate me if I tell on her.
I’ll be unpopular.
No one will ever talk to me again.
I’ll never get invited anywhere.
Everyone else is doing the same thing.
He hasn’t been hurt so far.
No one else is speaking up.
I’m no better than she is.
I’m into the same risky activities.
Who am I to judge him?
She’s an honor student so she must know what she is doing.
Prescription Opioids, Alcohol, Heroin, Fentanyl, Synthetics, Cannabis Products…
All of these drugs have resulted in deaths, either through direct overdose or because of a person’s actions while impaired. Chances are pretty good every student in your school has seen one or more of these drugs used by someone they know. What teens need to fully grasp is that a person’s next use of one of these drugs could be the last thing they ever do.
Sure, it’s possible that the drug user will survive the drug use they are currently involved in. The problem is that an observer never knows which episode will be survivable and which will be fatal.
What could possibly be worse than being shunned by a few friends because they did speak out? Knowing someone died from an overdose when they could have prevented it with a short conversation with a teacher or parent. That’s a guilt that will never fade away completely.
The way it is now in America, there are precious few teens who have not lost someone to a drug-related death. Even more teens have seen friends and acquaintances damage their lives and relationships through heavy drug or alcohol abuse.
If you are teaching or being a caretaker for teens, you can save lives by ensuring they understand their real duty is to save lives by speaking up. It’s not about “ratting someone out…” – it’s about making sure someone gets they help they need to stay alive. Acknowledge the above concerns they may have, and assist them in seeing that speaking out could very well save a life. Parents, teachers, school nurses – there are plenty of people who can help. But they must start the by speaking up to someone they feel they can trust.