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You're Not Alone- Facing the Dangers Together with SafeTeen New Mexico

By Elisha Neubauer

In today's world, there are many dangers facing the teens of America. The Independent Insurance Agents of New Mexico decided to take some of those dangers on head first, forming the SafeTeen New Mexico organization- a youth-driven non-profit organization.

Through the SafeTeen New Mexico organization, community members are able to reach out to the youth of the area, educating and spreading awareness of some of the bigger dangers and complications that teens face in today's modern day. They cover topics such as distracted driving, underage drinking, drug abuse, date violence, body image, addiction, suicide and many others.

"SafeTeen has been around since 2001 and we began as a program designed primarily to create high school assemblies to help youth make healthy decisions about drinking and driving," explains Chris Schueler, Executive Director of SafeTeen New Mexico. "Since that time we've expanded substantially to include not only DWI, but also alcohol dangers in general, prescription drug abuse, date violence, bullying, internet safety and even mental health issues including suicide and depression issues for teens."

In partnering with local youth and the City of Albuquerque, SafeTeen created a series of videos aimed at educating on the signs and symptoms of mental health. "This is crucial as many mental health issues first appear during the teen years and peers are, many times, the first to notice these signs," states Schueler.

"Adults who are important in a teen's life (teachers, coaches, parents) need to help our youth understand that mental health issues are common, and can be treated when addressed early on. The more we discuss mental health as a health issue (in classrooms, at church, in really every setting), the more we de-stigmatize this and that is crucial in having teens seek help when they notice these signs."

The organization also creates assembly programs for schools, which are led by a team of students who help design the curriculum based on their peers needs and wants. "In order to help facilitate better decision making, we always involve youth in all aspects of our program so they can become leaders for their peers; knowledgeable about the topic and creative in ways to address it appropriately and honestly," Schueler says.

"We also create a social issue campaign each year that usually involves a prime time TV special about an issue youth feel is important for them and their community. Again, we use youth leaders in helping to create that program so THEY become the champions for the issue in their peer group, school and community."

Schueler gave us some tips on how, as parents, we can strive to be better role models for the teens in our lives.

"Unfortunately, many of us still use our cell phones when we drive," he affirms. "Teens see this and our current laws reflect that it's safer to drive hands free than with a hand held device, when really, both hand held AND hands free cell use are extremely distracting." He continues, saying, "So parents need to understand this and act accordingly. Have their kids help them NOT drive and use the cell or other distractions." He informs us that parents are able to pick up a copy of the organization's program Driven to Distraction and watch it with their children and then discuss it. "Figure out a way to help each other stay safe while driving," he says.

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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