By: Robert M. Vincent, M.S.Ed., Public Health Analyst, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) “Talk. They Hear You.” underage drinking prevention campaign features new strategies and tools to reach parents and caregivers in 2014. Since being launched last May, the Campaign has made more than 1 billion impressions and its message is now present all across the country.
This winter, SAMHSA began working on a new “Talk. They Hear You.” television Public Service Announcement (PSA) that builds on the success of the 2013 PSA. Although the finished video is not expected to be unveiled until SAMHSA’s Prevention Day on February 3, 2014, I wanted to share with you a sneak peek of the new PSA, “Mom’s Thoughts.”
As SAMHSA’s “Talk. They Hear You.” Project Officer, I had the opportunity, recently, to go on location and supervise the filming of the new PSA, which features a mother and daughter (with a cameo appearance by Ernie the dog). In this scenario, a mother faces a dilemma when she realizes her 10-year-old daughter, Lucie, is no longer her “little girl.” When Lucie texts her mom to see if she can go to a friend’s house for a sleepover, Mom realizes she needs to start the talk about the dangers of underage drinking. But where does she begin? Listening to Mom’s thoughts, we catch a glimpse of the sometimes difficult and awkward process most parents go through when trying to initiate a conversation about drinking. As Mom rehearses what she is going to say, an eager Lucie grows more anxious for an answer. Mom finally seizes the moment to talk with Lucie about what she can do if a friend ever offers her alcohol. Although it seems as if Lucie is not listening, like most children, she really does hear what Mom is saying.
This PSA shows how talking about drinking with young people can sometimes be difficult for parents. To address this issue, SAMHSA recently launched Start the Talk, an online role-play tool that helps parents of children ages 9-15 practice tough conversations about alcohol. Start the Talk is an evidence-based behavioral tool that uses life-like avatars to engage in interactive conversations. The simulation is based on research in social cognition, learning theory, and neuroscience.
Studies have shown that parents have a significant influence on young people’s decisions about alcohol consumption,1 especially when they create supportive and nurturing environments in which their children can make their own decisions.2 This is why talking to children, early and often, can have a significant impact on how a child thinks about alcohol.
Keep an eye out for more “Talk. They Hear You.” Campaign resources. In the meantime, click here for information and access to current resources.
Check out more photos from the shoot here.
 Nash, S.G., McQueen, A., and Bray, J.H. (2005). Pathways to adolescent alcohol use: Family environment, peer influence, and parental expectations. Journal of Adolescent Health, 37(1), 19–28.
 Barnes, G.M., Reifman, A.S., Farrell, M.P., and Dintcheff, B.A. (2000). The effects of parenting on the development of adolescent alcohol misuse: A six-wave latent growth model. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(1), 175–186.