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BPHC Uplifting Positive Coping Strategies To Prevent Youth Substance Use

BOSTON—November 13—On the heels of Substance Use Prevention Month in October, the Boston Public Health Commission has launched a citywide ad campaign to keep the conversation going by promoting the CopeCode Club, a prevention initiative that teaches youth and young adults positive coping mechanisms to deal with difficult feelings including anger, anxiety, stress, and self-esteem issues. The positive coping methods taught through CopeCode are meant to give young people the tools to manage personal challenges without using drugs, alcohol, or other potentially harmful coping mechanisms.  

The yearlong campaign includes bus stop advertisements, digital ads, updates to the CopeCode Club website, and #CopeCodeChallenge on social media, which encourages young people to engage their peers by sharing their positive coping strategies like exercise, singing, talking to others, and journaling to help inspire others and remind them that they are not alone.  

“Youth engagement, early intervention, and development of supportive spaces are critical to youth substance use prevention,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “The CopeCode Club is an important resource because it helps youth build a community of peers and develop tools to positively cope with the challenges they’re facing.”   

The CopeCode Club was first launched in 2020, based on conversations with local teens, students, youth workers, and city stakeholders who felt there needed to be more youth-specific resources that addressed why young people use substances, as opposed to just educating them on the potential health risks of substance use. Program participation allows young people to hear from their peers about how they manage difficult emotions and challenges. The program teaches the importance of healthy, positive stress management techniques like physical activity, artistic expression, journaling, and positive affirmations for navigating life’s challenges.  

This work is critically important given the unprecedented behavioral health challenges young people are experiencing because of the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) conducted by Boston Public Schools, despite the fact that 85% of students reported having felt sad, empty, hopeless, angry, or anxious, only 17% consistently got the help they needed. There are encouraging signs that the CopeCode Club’s teachings are having a positive impact on students – according to the YRBS, 58% of BPS students have never drunk alcohol, 72% of BPS students have never tried marijuana, 82% don’t vape or use tobacco products, and a vast majority have never misused prescription medications or used other dangerous and illicit substances. 

More than 100 local youths and 3,000 social media accounts have engaged with the CopeCode Challenge since 2020. The CopeCode Club has placed a strong emphasis on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility throughout its campaign. The campaign is designed to reach individuals from various backgrounds, with poster collateral available in six major languages spoken in Boston. Real-life connections in the community are highlighted to establish relatability and inclusivity.  

BPHC and the CopeCode Club want to remind everyone, but especially our city’s youth, that they are not alone and resources are available to support them. Those interested in getting involved with the CopeCode Club should email Dishon Laing, Youth Prevention Program Director for BPHC, at dlaing@bphc.org. For more information and resources, be sure to follow @copecodeclub on Instagram, tune into the “Break the Line” podcast, and visit our website, copecodeclub.com. Additional services and resources can also be found on BPHC’s website.  

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