Prevention Education

I’ve spent close to 15 years participating in the prevention education field and in those years I’ve seen the areas of what we are “preventing” aggressively persist. In the late 1980’s to the early 2000’s the prevention arena focused on preventing drug use, school drop-out, teen pregnancy and violent crime. Today prescription medication abuse, suicide, gun violence and bullying are covering the headlines.

Brooke Wheeldon-Reece, M.B.A.
Chief Executive Officer
The Cypress Initiative, Inc.

There have been changes and some would suggest improvements in recent years. Prevention work has shifted from “just say no” campaigns to enhancing goal-setting and self-advocacy skills. From “stay in school” campaigns to enhancing academic goals and promoting achievement through diverse programming. From “abstinence” campaigns to enhancing confidence and self-esteem. Currently, we are seeing a shift from “anti-bullying” campaigns to enhancing communication and critical thinking skills and from “anti-suicide” campaigns to mental wellness education and mindfulness training.

At some level, we collectively see that the problems young people are faced with are the outputs: they are simply the results of our own internal happenings. However, we’ve yet to make the connection of how these internal happenings create the world we experience. As a result, reform in prevention education has simply become a game of swap meet.

Swapping the old outputs for the new ones and preparing an educational system that says if you earn an A or even a B you will feel less anxiety, less stress and have higher self-esteem and confidence, thus leading to less drug use, drop-out, teen pregnancy, suicide and violence. But the equation is flawed and we all look around and wonder what else we can do. Or even worse, we throw up our surrender flags and stop wondering at all.

Three years ago I was leading this charge both in my career and in my home. I was the self-proclaimed chairman of “Must EARN A’s and Succeed AT All COSTS” and my students, husband and children were my victims. I say victims because I was forcing them to learn MY way and the cost was robbing them of their birthright: finding their source of wisdom to do things THEIR way. I was force feeding them MY way and butting up to constant roadblocks. Roadblocks in the form of my seven-year-old with OCD, my husband with depression, my students with anxiety disorders and failing grades.

It never occurred to me they had their own way and more importantly their way would provide them with the curiosity to forge paths unseen by all, until they uncovered them. The moment I saw they were already well and had an untapped well of intelligence inside – the moment I saw it wasn’t up to me – everything changed. OCD vanished, depression subsided, and grades began to rise. As my state of mind began to rise so did those in my path.

All reform lies in the individual. Once a person sees they create their world instead of the world creating them, possibilities open, dreams comes to fruition, potential expands, learning increases, hope arises and the things we are working so hard to prevent resolve on their own.

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