Teen Esteem is an 18-year-old non-profit that has presented in health classes throughout the Tri-Valley area for most of its history. It provides accurate information about risky behaviors and consequences anchored by the core value of encouraging teen-agers that they are unique and valuable as human beings and should respect themselves and others.
One notable stat—we’ve all heard that we’re one in a million. Except, if you live in China with its 2 billion residents, you now have more than 200 others just like you. Teen Esteem emcee Ben Johnson emphasized that each of the students is unique created as one in 8 billion world-wide residents.
The presentation—moving between video and live speakers—covered alcohol use, drug use, prescription drugs, sexual activity, stress, depression and suicide.
Among my takeaways were the comments from the Dougherty Valley teacher who lost her 23-year-old brother to a combination of alcohol and as few as three tablets of a prescription pain drug that a friend gave him to alleviate the discomfort from a sprained ankle. He didn’t wake up in the morning. Three years later, her family still has an empty chair at Sunday dinner.
Or Chaplin Nick Vleisides, who serves the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Dept. as well as the San Ramon and Danville police departments and San Ramon Valley fire. Nick told of being called to a home where a 13-year-old girl, an honor student, had taken her own life. She was discovered by her mom and her brother who had been out running an errand. When the dad got home, he turned suicidal and wanted to join his daughter—fortunately, two sheriff’s deputies and Nick were on hand to subdue him until he regained his senses.
The tragedies occur way too frequently in the over-achieving culture here in the Tri-Valley area. The right friends, the right university, the right grades and the need to blow off steam combine to make lots of teen-agers’ lives pressure cookers that can lead to very poor decisions.
Diablo Magazine in its March edition published a thorough piece about how prevalent prescription drug abuse has become in the valley. (Web Link). It a long read that is worthwhile, particularly if you are a parent or a grandparent.
What’s buried in that piece is how addictive oxycontin is and how it has led to heroin being actively used in the valley. When I was growing up here many decades ago, we were told that marijuana was the gateway drug to heroin. I never experienced that, but I have had two police chiefs confirm that they are seeing heroin again on the streets—and a casual friend told me that his teen-aged son had been hooked on heroin by his boss at a family dining restaurant in the Tri-Valley.
It’s not exactly the view of “Pleasantville” that we all like to think of in the Tri-Valley, but it is the reality that our teen-agers and young adults are living.
PS—When investigating the heroin connection 18 months ago, I talked with Linda Turnbull, the founder and executive director of Teen Esteem. More than six months later, through the Barnabas Group of the Bay Area, I heard Linda present and then attended two Barnabas SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats) sessions and eventually agreed to join the board. I have been a member and chair since November 2012.