PRINCE GEORGE – Students at B.C. public and post-secondary institutions, including the University of Northern British Columbia, will have access to additional supports to address substance use thanks to a $400,000 investment for a project co-led by the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. and the Canadian Mental Health Association B.C. Division.

Changing the Culture of Substance Use is a project that is currently being implemented at 11 public post-secondary institutions throughout British Columbia. Project researchers are working with these institutions to create a wider range of resources and strategies, which will engage key groups such as student leaders, students in residence and those in their first year.

At UNBC, a collaboration between Wellness Services, Athletics, Residence Life and Peer Support Network has held dinner conversations with student athletes, residence assistants, and peer support leaders. These dinner conversations support and empower students by providing a venue for meaningful conversation. Students discuss current substance-use practices and explore ways they think the culture of substance-use at UNBC might be improved.

Student responses to date have been very positive. As one student commented, “I think it is good to see people so open and willing to change the cultures of our university for the better.”

“Collaborating with the wider campus community will help promote a change in culture surrounding substance use,” Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris said. “Projects like this one will help encourage moderation and healthy choices for students.”

“These funds are intended to encourage discussions about making healthy and appropriate choices when it comes to substance use,” said Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond.  “At UNBC, the athletic department and student athletes will provide leadership and engage with students, encouraging them to make healthier lifestyles a priority.”

This investment aligns with the provincial government’s 10-year mental-health and substance use plan, Healthy Minds, Healthy People, which focuses on prevention, early intervention, treatment and sustainability of mental health and substance-use supports. The announcement meets a commitment within the plan to provide more substance-use initiatives across the province.

The province also offers Alcohol Sense, a comprehensive suite of online resources to help parents educate and guide their children to make healthy decisions about alcohol through critical thinking and conversation. To learn more, visit www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/home/articles/topic/alcohol-sense.