Addiction Prevention and Mental Health Promotion in Schools – Going Upstream

Posted in: Blogs, Positive Mental Health

Alberta Health Services recognizes that teachers are in a unique position to influence their students’ lives, both as educators and as mentors. The school community can be a powerful protective factor in supporting addiction prevention and mental well-being in children and youth.

Alberta Health Services has curriculum-aligned lesson plans and other educational resources to help you give your students knowledge and life skills that will empower them to make healthy choices about substance use and gambling. The lesson plans are linked to Alberta Education Health and Life Skills learning outcomes. They are readable and user-friendly, as well as simple and easy to use. Extra information is provided to help you feel comfortable with the each topic. There is even a Teacher Information Series!

Check out the lesson plans below:

Children and youth who are engaged in these lesson plans can also benefit from Peer Leadership programs that are delivered in the school setting. By utilizing all of these resources, schools play in important role in an “upstream prevention” approach.

What is Upstream Prevention? This concept can best by explained with a common parable that tells the story of a couple that is fishing downstream in a river. They notice people have fallen in the river and are nearly drowning so they start rescuing people by pulling them out of the river. After a while, they decide to go upstream to explore the problem. Once they discover what is happening upstream, they decide to fix the problem there. By preventing anyone from falling in the water in the first place, the couple no longer need to rescue people from drowning. You may have heard Desmond Tutu say “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

This approach describes the work of the Prevention Promotion Team at Addiction and Mental Health Services. Our work focuses on engaging and empowering individuals, families, schools, and communities to promote positive mental well-being, reduce the harms associated with substance use and gambling, reduce stigma, and prevent addiction.

Learn more about addiction prevention and mental health promotion in schools here: Prevention Strategies.

Michelle Sauvé is a Tobacco Reduction Counsellor on the Prevention Promotion Team for Addiction and Mental Health and can be contacted at

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