An inflatable Viking ship at Jasper High School home games has been intended to spread an important message.The Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center (NWAMHC) sponsors the ship that is part of a …
An inflatable Viking ship at Jasper High School home games has been intended to spread an important message.
The Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center (NWAMHC) sponsors the ship that is part of a prevention program aimed at educating the public on safety issues with prescription drugs, according to April Knight, the director of prevention services with NWAMHC.
"The statewide campaign is called 'My Smart Dose' and focuses on educating the whole state on the fact that medication prescribed for me isn't okay for you," Knight said. "Everyone is different and medications should be only taken by the person for whom they are prescribed, exactly as it is prescribed by the doctor."
The "My Smart Dose" slogan is part of the ship's design.
Knight said the ship was made possible through a SPF RX grant from the Alabama State Department of Mental Health Services that was awarded to the Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center's Substance Abuse Prevention Department.
"We thought this idea of doing the Viking ship could be a focal point for any kind of community work that they do," Jasper High Principal Jonathan Allen said. "We thought that would be a great way to capture a new audience that didn't know about the prevention program."
While the NWAMHC prevention program is not aimed at addressing the opioid crisis, Allen said he hopes starting a conversation about safe prescription drug use will open the door for people to have an open discussion about a number of issues that could impact teens in communities.
The mental health center's partnership with Jasper High began last year, and a number of issues were discussed with students as a result of the collaboration.
"We talked about prescription drugs and the opioid crisis. We talked about alcohol, and we did that around Prom Promise. And then we also brought them in to talk about JUULing and vaping, which we see nationally as a major story as well," Allen said. "What we hoped they could do is educate them about the health challenges from those behaviors, as well as how it's affecting our community, and then they would be led to make better choices."
Allen said NWAMHC has done branding with the school in the past to promote meaningful conversations about challenging issues. One such slogan was #TalkTheyHearYou.
"It's encouraging our parents to have conversations with their children about those three main areas, as well as all the other health issues that we know affect teens. Kids do hear their parents," Allen said. "They may roll their eyes, they may act frustrated or feel like they're being preached to, but what we've seen is thinking kids aren't listening and not having the conversation is definitely not making a difference."
The Viking ship will be at each remaining home football game of the season and may be used at community events in Jasper.