Health and Wellness: Susan Parmelee
Health and Wellness: Susan Parmelee

By Susan Parmelee

October is Red Ribbon month and our local schools and city will be honoring this day through activities that aim to educate, advocate and provide resources to youth and families about the negative outcomes caused by the illegal drug industry.

The first Red Ribbon week was held in honor of Enrique Camarena, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was tortured and killed in Mexico in 1985. To honor Camarena, family, friends and neighbors began wearing red satin ribbons, and some of the first community coalitions began forming to fight the destruction caused by alcohol and other drugs.

Sadly, 30 years later, we live in a county where accidental drug overdose is the number one cause of death, with Orange County having a higher than national average rate of accidental overdoses, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The education and prevention education during Red Ribbon activities are very important to the wellbeing of the youth and adults in this community. Whether your child is 2 or 22 years old, there are a lot of important messages parents and other adults can deliver solely through their own behavior.

Be a good role model when it comes to drinking, taking medicine and handling stress.

  • If you choose to drink alcohol, experts suggest you do not become intoxicated in front of your child. Drinking in excess or using illicit drugs increases the chances your child will develop drug or alcohol problems. Children who view adults consuming small amounts of alcohol with meals or for celebrations usually develop healthier attitudes toward alcohol.
  • Always take prescription medicines per your doctor’s directions. Always lock-up prescription medicines and dispose of medications safely when they are no longer needed. Never share prescription medicines with family or friends. For disposal methods please refer to the City of San Clemente website,
  • Do not ever use alcohol or illicit drugs as a coping mechanism to reduce stress. Engage in healthy stress reducing activities, such as going for a walk on the beach trail, deep breaths and meditation (see UCLA MARC mindfulness meditations) or exercise. Children see poor coping mechanisms on TV and in movies, “I had a rough day, pour me a drink,” and they do not need to hear the same in their own home.

Be aware of the behaviors your child may be observing in relatives and friends’ homes and take time to discuss your observations. A real life learning moment is what a child remembers and is framing their future decision making. For more tips about age appropriate discussion about illegal substances, visit

For an adult learning opportunity, consider attending the Reality House Party presented by the Wellness & Prevention Center from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 10 at San Clemente High School. Student actors will be portraying what is happening at house parties every weekend. Wisit under the activities tab to sing up for a tour. Or contact me at 949.680.0516.

Susan Parmelee is a social worker who works during the week at San Clemente High School in the Wellness & Prevention Center and at Western Youth Services. To subscribe to Wellness and Prevention Center weekly emails, send an email with the word “subscribe” in the subject line to

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