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Local mom tackles youth substance abuse with ‘Screenagers’ screening

Nicole Charlwood is bringing “Screenagers Under the Influence: Addressing Vaping, Drugs, and Alcohol in the Digital Age” to the Capitol Theatre on Mar. 10.

The film is the third documentary in the Screenagers trilogy; a media release describes its synopsis as a film that delves into how the tech revolution has reshaped adolescence and its effects on substance use.

“The film debunks myths and depicts strategies parents and schools can use to encourage healthy decision-making, support teen mental health, set limits, and create healthy home environments,” stated the release.

The film explores common scenarios, grounded in a teen’s current reality of social media, movies, and TV shows about vaping, drugs, and alcohol.

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For Charlwood, a local mother of two, bringing the film to the community is meant to promote communication and transparency for both youth and parents on the new realities kids face online, at school, and in the community.

“I have two teens, and they have been participating in partying in different ways, so this is something I’ve been paying attention to for a while. I realize the benefit of hanging out with other parents to talk about our youth and what they’re experiencing at parties, on the streets, at school.”

Charlwood explains how the third feature of Screenagers gives parents the opportunity to understand more about their children’s lives and what they’re exposed to, while offering parents hope, education, and potential solutions to support youth at home and schools.

March’s event will be the second time Charlwood has brought a Screenagers film to the community. Eight years ago, she hosted a screening of the first film in the trilogy, and the turnout was impressive.

However, Charlwood is unsure if it will see the same success in March due to the sensitivity of the topic.

“I think it’s pretty triggering for a lot of parents to face what’s happening with our youth. We have had death in our community; I’ve had to go to a funeral with my daughter, whose classmate died from an overdose.

We know that our kids locally are getting access to toxic drugs, and I think people might be scared to show up to an event like this, but I want to reassure people that this is an environment of education and building awareness, and there’s potential to have some good conversations about it.”

Education on substance abuse, social media safety, and mental health disorders is available for youth in the public school system; however, Charlwood explains that these resources are limited.

Freedom Quest, a local non-profit organization that provides mental health and substance abuse education for youth in the community, recently saw their funding through Interior Health cut, explains Charlwood.

Through the program, counselors visit L.V Rogers and Trafalgar in Nelson weekly to support children directly with the issues of addiction, toxic drugs, and mental health. Charlwood adds that the loss of funding has created a higher need to promote other avenues of youth substance and mental health disorder education.

“Parent education was part of the mandate with Interior Health, and that funding has been cut. A lot of us are pushing that responsibility to schools, and I don’t think that’s fair. But I do think we as parents have a right to expect a certain level of support for our children in the school system.”

Charlwood has watched the film and says one of her biggest takeaways was how it addresses common myths and opened her eyes as a parent in terms of assumptions she’s been making, adding that the message was delivered in a meaningful, but eye-opening way.

“I grew up with a lot of weed, but weed and alcohol were pretty much all we had access to when I was a teen and partying. People might be throwing up, but they weren’t having overdoses. Now, even the weed that kids are getting exposed to has much higher concentrations of drugs, and accessing drugs is much easier. The film opened my eyes about some of these assumptions.”

Following the screening, parents and youth will have the opportunity to join a facilitated community discussion, with panellists from Ankors, Freedom Quest, and the Nelson Public Library who will provide information on available local resources and how to access them.

Tickets for the Mar. 10 screening can be purchased on the Capitol Theatre’s website; the show starts at 6:30 p.m.

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