Live Real Mentors take active role in alcohol and drug abuse prevention

Mentors in the Live Real program educate on the effects of high-risk alcohol and other drug use.

A sticker commonly adorns office and dorm room doors across the NDSU campus. It reads: Live Real Mentor.

The people behind those doors are trained to help students, faculty or staff members struggling with issues relating to alcohol or drugs.

They educate on the effects of high-risk alcohol and other drug use. They make referrals to prevention and treatment services. They promote a culture of safe and responsible attitudes toward alcohol.

Most importantly, they listen.

Entering this academic year, almost 3,000 students, faculty and staff have completed the Live Real Mentor training program since 2010.

The knowledge is quickly spreading on campus, according to Erika Beseler Thompson, assistant director, alcohol and other drug abuse prevention. She is hoping to soon make the program available to an even bigger audience with a Web version that could be made available within the next year.

“Part of our mission as a land-grant institution is to make information accessible,” Beseler Thompson said. “We hope to make this something that is available to those who may not be able to attend a session in person.”

An online version is in the early planning stages. However, NDSU’s Live Real Mentor program has rapidly grown due to intense interest from people who completed the training sessions.

The program, implemented by the President’s Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs, began with a one-hour training session focused on identifying high risk behavior, available campus resources and assisting students, faculty and staff struggling with issues related to alcohol and other drugs through referrals.

It has been expanded to include a three-hour advanced session and one-hour sessions on marijuana, family and genetic factors of addiction and parental modeling and messages about alcohol and other drug use.

Beseler Thompson said each of the sessions was implemented and refined following feedback from participants.

“We found that people who attended were hungry for more,” Beseler Thompson said. “These are ongoing issues that people want to know about. A lot of people come because it’s relevant to them.”

The latest addition to the program is a session for parents scheduled in January.

The session is designed to give attendees tips for talking with children of all ages about drinking and drug use and to provide resources for ongoing education. Participants do not need to have previously attended the Live Real Mentor basics program.

Beseler Thompson initially presented most of the Live Real Mentor sessions, which are usually held on campus in the afternoon. At least one representative from each department or staff group on campus was asked to attend a session during the first year of the program.

But it didn’t take long before trainees wanted to become instructors. Beseler Thompson said many people who went through the basic program asked to bring the information back to their fellow students, departments or staff colleagues.

“I wish someone had sat down and explained all of this information to me when I was in college,” said Brittnee Steckler, associate director of employee benefits and development, and a frequent Live Real Mentor co-presenter. “The Live Real Mentor program has been hugely important. When people go off to college and they get their first taste of freedom, this lets them know there is someone there looking out for them.”

A 2012 CORE Alcohol and Other Drug survey showed that student drug use is low at NDSU, and students who consume alcohol are experiencing fewer alcohol-related problems.

According to the survey, students have reported significantly lower rates since 2005 of driving under the influence, getting arrested for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, missing a class, having been in trouble with the law and performing poorly on a test due to the use of drugs or alcohol.

Some of the success can be attributed to the Live Real Mentor program’s message and accessibility.

Beseler Thompson hopes to partner with other campus departments and student organizations to film online sessions and bring them to Moodle, an online learning-management system. There is no timetable for when the web sessions will be unveiled, Beseler Thompson said.

“Everything we do is with the foresight of wanting to be more readily accessible,” Beseler Thompson said.

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