Town Hall Meeting Emphasizes Consistency When Combating Teen Substance Abuse
On Sept. 7, guidance counselor Donald Songy Ph.D. ’07 and Deputy Coroner of Jefferson Parish Dr. Granville Morse ’89 led a Town Hall Meeting focused on parents’ role in helping their sons make healthy choices, especially with regard to avoiding alcohol and drugs. Dr. Morse has served as an Emergency Medicine physician at East Jefferson General Hospital, Lakeview Regional Medical Center, and Thibodaux Regional Medical Center. Dr. Songy, coordinator of student assessment, moderated the event, which was mandatory for parents of new students and open to all.
The evening opened with a prayer from Fr. Christopher S. Fronk, S.J. and Dr. Songy began the presentation by outlining the Student Assessment Program’s mission to identify, support, and educate students whose behaviors seem to indicate family, academic, emotional, or social problems that could lead to negative consequences such as substance abuse. The program’s goal is to help these students avoid alcohol and drugs by providing the structure they need to make healthy decisions. As an adjunct to their grade-level counselor, Songy meets regularly with students in the program to discuss everything from relapse prevention and stress to grades and social problems. He talked about the mission of Jesuit High School, as well as the mission of its parents—to help their sons develop into the person God intends them to become and to teach them how to compete, cope, and connect. “The transition from middle school to high school is pretty strenuous,” said Songy.
Dr. Songy talked about the struggles of instant gratification and technology affecting the lives of students. He also discussed the misconception of social norms theories saying, “There’s actually a lot more healthy behaviors than unhealthy ones among adolescents. When you hear ‘everybody’s doing it,’ statistically that’s not the case at all.” Songy concluded with helpful tips to combat the use of drugs and alcohol such as fostering open conversations, modeling healthy behaviors, and encouraging active involvement in the community and school activities.
Dr. Songy turned the presentation over to Dr. Morse, who began by sharing his own personal experiences living with a drug-addicted father and how that shaped him, positively, as an adolescent and young adult. Morse reiterated how social media and technology can negatively impact a child’s development, but added that consistently monitoring a child and their friends and actively engaging with them does make a difference, saying, “Kids aren’t allowed to make a mistake anymore. Everybody’s snapping pictures and somebody can fix the picture and send it out, and you have a whole slew of problems. I’m very active on my daughter’s social media.”
Morse went on to describe the unfortunate things he’s witnessed in his medical career, noting that drugs are becoming more insidious, destructive, and readily available with each passing year. Morse explained, however, that because of education and awareness, teen alcohol and marijuana abuse trends are steadily declining. Morse ended his presentation by emphasizing vigilance, adding, “If your child is losing interest in the things they love to do, if they’re withdrawn, agitated, if they have changes in weight, sleeping habits, if they look or smell intoxicated, you can’t ignore it. If their friends are acting the same way, don’t be afraid to make the call to the other parent and intervene. The more transparent and more consistent you are, the better outcome you’re going to get.”
The evening concluded with a question and answer session.
Held twice per year, Jesuit’s Town Hall meetings focus on topics affecting youth and their parents. These meetings are open to all parents and attendance is strongly encouraged. The meetings reflect timely topics affecting youth, and therefore change each year.
If you have any questions, please contact Jesuit’s coordinator of student assessment and development Donald Songy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 483-3828.
For more information, parents might find the following resources helpful in talking with their children: