By Karen Stokes
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the lives of many in Milwaukee. It has negatively impacted people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance abuse.
According to Mental Health America, in September 2020 more than half of 11-17-year-olds surveyed reported having thoughts of suicide or self-harm nearly every day of the previous two weeks. Additionally, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that in 2020, there were 536 overdose deaths in Milwaukee County, which is 118 more than in 2019.
National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics states that throughout the nation, 10 million young people (ages 12 to 29) are in need of substance abuse treatment. Some of the most commonly abused drugs are marijuana, cocaine, crack, opioids (including heroin), LSD, ecstasy and methamphetamine.
“Trauma, stress and peer pressure to witnessing your parents abuse drugs and even genetics, are some of the reasons that lead people to alcohol and drugs. The list goes on and on,” said Alexandria Kohn, coordinator for the Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (MCSAP).
In light of these facts, Light & Unite Red’s mission is more important than ever. Light & Unite Red promotes community-wide prevention education and is led by the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division.
“Originally the idea for Light & Unite Red week was from the Behavioral Health Division,” Kohn said. “It’s a week to highlight drug and alcohol-free living, it coincides with National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week.”
Light & Unite Red will be hosting a variety of virtual events, March 22-28, 2021.
Friday, March 26 at 6 p.m.
Virtual Escape Room and Mocktail Tutorial; Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (MCSAP) will host a virtual escape room experience for adults and a mocktail hosted by Erik Kennedy and Sarah Hofman. The first five people to sign up will receive the supplies for the mocktail. Sign up at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMpc-ivqjIuHtao6t17w4qhbJrQiGFfTZKo
Saturday, March 27 at 10 a.m.
Hidden in Plain Sight Zoom Event; The House of Kings and Priests, Inc. is hosting a virtual event for parents and guardians from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participants will have the opportunity to go through a mock bedroom to learn where kids and teens might hide alcohol and drugs. Additionally, they will have an opportunity to ask questions about what they saw in the room and how to prevent drug and alcohol use among youth.
To join the Zoom event, please visit https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85368306640?pwd=NndjeDBPeDhPNUR2bjYxcEg4QWpLUT09.
Saturday, March 27 at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Light & Unite Red Grab n’ Go; The House of Kings and Priests, Inc. will host a Grab n’ Go event in the Grace Fellowship Church parking lot (3879 N. Port Washington Rd). Free grab bags are available while supplies last and include PPE supplies, personal journals, and more. One bag will be provided per person.
“Light & Unite Red focuses on a spectrum of ages,” Kohn explained. “We have programming for adults and youth. It’s definitely a week designed for the whole community.”
Several downtown area businesses and organizations will be showing support by lighting it up red to highlight the importance of substance use awareness education among our youth and in our community.
“Light and Unite Red is important for the community because it helps highlight that we are a community, those that are at their highest and those who are at their lowest to be able to come together as a community and provide resources,” Kohn said. “We’re all in this together. The community does care about them and wants to promote healthy living and sustainable living and that enforces the community norm of caring and being cohesive.”
To learn more visit lightunitered.org for mental health wellness, suicide prevention and substance abuse resources.