On Wednesday, Jan. 24, the sisters of Delta Phi Epsilon hosted their annual Substance Abuse Awareness Panel. The panel is the sorority’s way of bringing awareness and knowledge to the students of Keene State College on the subject of substance abuse.

Puja Thapa / BUSINESS MANAGER

Puja Thapa / BUSINESS MANAGER

President of Delta Phi Epsilon and senior Briannah Bellot said, “We feel it is so important to educate and spread awareness of the impacts of substance abuse to ourselves and the community.” Bellot also said, “These types of hard conservations are exactly what we need to have to change the stigma around substance abuse and to know what to do to help ourselves and those around us.”

Sophomore and sister of Delta Phi Epsilon Elizabeth Jeffery said, “I think in hosting this panel, we hope that students will at least think about their actions. A common theme in the panelists stories is that things can take a turn for the worse very quickly.”

The Substance Abuse Panel consisted of Keene Fire Chief Mark Howard, Recovery Coach Jackie Mitchell, Stacey Turgeon of the Phoenix House, Polly Morris of Cheshire Medical Center and Continuum of Care Facilitator Natalie Neison. Each speaker had something different to bring to the table when talking about the issue of substance abuse that they have faced in their life and the substance abuse issue in Keene.

Each panelist got up and spoke to KSC students about the dangers of substance abuse and their personal experiences dealing with this very pressing issue in not just the local community, but the nation as well. The panelists told of their personal stories and experiences.

Puja Thapa / BUSINESS MANAGER

Puja Thapa / BUSINESS MANAGER

Cheshire Medical Center Director for Controlled Substance Management Network Polly Morris said, “We have a lot of marijuana use, lots of vaping. Tobacco and alcohol are the number one and two, we have a lot of binge drinking that happens in your age group, young adults 18-25 years old.” Morris said that nicotine vaping is the most popular among youth right now because they are able to get away with it because vaping doesn’t smell as potent as other substances, such as smoking marijuana.

Morris, who is in long-term recovery herself, and many other panelists, including Fire Chief Mark Howard, said that if you had any other medical conditions, you would get time off or you would get sent to the hospital or a retreat or whatever you need for your condition to go into remission. But because it’s a substance abuse problem or a mental health problem, it does not work that way.

Morris said, “We address what’s from the neck down, not from the neck up; we don’t really take care of that in our community.”

According to Morris, in the City of Keene, New Hampshire, the most significant problems with substance abuse that the city has is with prescription drugs, cocaine, carphentinol, tobacco and the abuse of alcohol. Morris said, “I think the legal drugs, alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs are the worst offenders in our community.”

Morris sees that the substance most abused on KSC’s campus is the binge drinking of alcohol. “Students are away from home for the first time,” Morris said. Peer pressure is something that every new student deals with but Morris explained that with substances it’s more than peer pressure its a “lets go hard, let’s do this without regard to what the consequences might be.’”

Puja Thapa / BUSINESS MANAGER

Puja Thapa / BUSINESS MANAGER

Fire Chief Mark Howard said, “Be advocates for people who need help. If you don’t help them, they might not get the help they need.”

The Substance Abuse panelists portrayed a common theme: if there is someone in your life struggling with substance abuse issues, there is always a way you can help.

Sophomore Nicole Azzarito, an attendee of the presentation, said, “We need to come together as a whole and deal with mental health as it should be dealt with so that people have the opportunity to succeed and feel like a human, like they belong and can get the help they need.”

Morris wants people to know that, “If somebody is struggling in life, you could be that prick of light.”

Molly Spooner can be contacted at mspooner@kscequinox.com