LOWER GWYNEDD >> At a first glance, a teenager’s bedroom is the typical, myriad representation of a young, full-time student’s life — a desk for homework, shelves for books, posters of sports teams on the wall, maybe a TV set up in the corner.
But is there more to picture? Do seemingly innocent items, like a hairbrush, require more than just a glance? The Lower Gwynedd Police Department contends that they might.
A mock teen bedroom drop-in event, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Ambler, in conjunction with the department and the Wissahickon School District, will be held in the Wissahickon High School auditorium at 521 Houston Road, Ambler, on April 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. Police officers will guide attendees through an interactive mock bedroom and point out signs of drug use, abuse and poor decision making. This includes identifying “stash safes,” in which drugs might be unexpectedly contained. Drug and alcohol counselors and mental health workers will be on site, as well as a joint event, Coffee with Cops, where parents will have a chance to have a discussion with officers about these topics.
Parents are encouraged to stop by for as long as they wish to during the event’s hours.
School Resource Officer Beth Sanborn said she thought of the event with the primary goal of providing education for parents.
“It’s just really important that we spread this information,” Sanborn said. “What I find when I talk to parents is that they’re surprised when their kids are engaged in poor life choices. I’ll ask, and hear, ‘Well, I don’t go into their room.’ Well, you really should. I wanted to show parents, well, if you were to see a spoon alongside a lighter and an orange cap, any one of these things might be fine, but a combination might be indicative.”
By the 12th grade, about half of the adolescents in the United States misuse an illicit drug at least once, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, such abuse may increase risk for future development of mental illnesses.
The combination of drug abuse, mental issues and lack of parental awareness can become a grave issue, Sanborn said. It’s important that information is spread, especially in light of recent school safety issues.
The police department is working with the Center of Humanistic Change, a nonprofit agency providing prevention education, which will be setting up the bedroom. The center has provided mock teen bedroom presentations for various groups for the past two years.
With greater awareness among parents, the police department hopes that this can lead to potential increased prevention before teenagers make or continue to make poor decisions, according to Sanborn.
“It might be enough to spark a conversation,” she said. “That might be enough to intervene. If we can help save a kid and save a parent from headache and heartache, it’s a good, proactive step to take.”
The event is open to the public but limited to adults.
For more information or to ask any questions about the event, contact the Lower Gwynedd Police Department at 215-646-5303.