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Anti-Violence Initiative
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APA's Practice Directorate and MTV: Music Television are answering the call of concern about youth and violence. As part of its public education campaign, "Talk to Someone Who Can Help," APA launched a timely and important youth anti-violence initiative, "Warning Signs," in April 2000 that offers every practitioner the opportunity to connect with his or her community and begin a dialogue with youth on the topic of violence
As part of this campaign, APA and MTV co-produced a documentary on teen violence called "Warning Signs," which aired on MTV just a few days after the Columbine shooting in April. The 30-minute documentary explores the thoughts, opinions and fears of teenagers and young adults about the issue of violence and features psychologists, Dr. Russ Newman, APA's executive director for professional practice and Dr. Karen Zager, past president of Division 42.
Empowering Youth
The "Warning Signs" documentary includes a toll-free number (800-268-0078) that teens and young adults can call to receive APA's free "Warning Signs" guide. Produced by APA and MTV, the "Warning Signs" guide is aimed at teenagers and young adults and includes information about what normal anger is, the warning signs of potentially violent behavior and what to do when recognizing these signs in peers. Psychologists have provided input for the guide.
Youth violence is a critical national issue that ties into the family relations and troubled-teen theme of the "Talk to Someone Who Can Help" campaign. As a way to extend the reach of APA's public education campaign activities, APA began talking with MTV about an anti-
violence campaign last year in the wake of the school shootings in early 1998 in Jonesboro, Ark., Springfield, Ore., and West Paducah, Ky.
APA and MTV were on the verge of launching the youth anti-violence initiative in April when the news broke about the high school shooting in Littleton, Colorado. "The horrible incident in Littleton strikes at the heart of every community, and everyone needs to do something about it," said Russ Newman, Ph.D., J.D., APA's executive director for professional practice.
Demand for information about youth violence was so great that within two weeks of the project launch, the Practice Directorate needed to print an additional 100,000 Warning Signs guides. By the end of the year, 615 forums were convened, there were over 3 million hits to the Help Center Web site, almost half a million hits to the Warning Signs guide page, and nearly 300,000 guides distributed at forums and through the toll-free line.
Community Outreach Encouraged
To foster more discussion about violence among teens, APA has been working with its national network of psychologists to conduct community-outreach activities across the country, says Jan Peterson, the Practice Directorate's assistant executive director for public relations and communications. "APA members have conducted hundreds of youth forums across the country to date," said Ms. Peterson. These events are held in conjunction with church groups, boys and girls clubs and other local youth organizations.
TPA's Public Education Directorate has been active in this effort. The Chattanooga Committee, led by Phil Johnson, Ph.D., has held 6 forums in Tennessee, with over 150 people in attendance. In Nashville, psychologists have held 4 forums, with over 250 people attending. 300 people attended one in Cookeville, and others are being planned across the state. If you are interested in having a forum for adults or youth, with a showing of the video, in your area, contact your local psychological association, or contact Nancy Stott, Ed.D., TPA Public Education Directorate Officer.
MTV officials, including vice president of public affairs Stephen Friedman, expressed eagerness to work with APA because of the expertise psychologists bring on violent behavior and APA's existing public education campaign infrastructure.
"This project builds on the public education campaign network that we have created across the nation over the past few years," says Dr. Newman. "Without that foundation, a partnership of this kind and a project of this size would be impossible."
Practitioner Resources
Special involvement kits are available to APA members that will help organize and prepare for activities that can be implemented in every community. The kits contain information and sample materials for carrying out presentations to youth, alerting media and conducting other grassroots activities. The kits, which also include a discussion outline, have been distributed to more than 1,500 psychologists around the country.
Three approaches to community outreach have been developed that will help practitioners engage in lively discussions with youth. In one approach, individual practitioners can partner with a school in their community and identify a class - such as a health class - watch the "Warning Signs" documentary and afterwards facilitate a discussion about violence warning signs, as well as good ways of coping with anger and frustration.
As the second option, psychologists can convene a community youth forum. Groups such as church youth groups or boys and girls clubs and scouts could be invited to co-host and thereby provide a built-in audience for the youth forum. "We hope to connect with this important teenage audience and help them learn what they can do about an issue that has become far too prevalent in our society," Peterson said. "At the same time, we will help educate the next generation of young adults on the value of psychology."
The third approach would be to team individual psychologists with a school to provide a series of forums around the "Warning Signs" documentary. Psychologists could conduct youth sessions, for example, during all of the physical education classes for an entire day.
Each approach will lend itself to co-promotion with local MTV cable affiliates. Information about how to work with local MTV cable affiliates is also included in the special involvement kits.
How To Get Involved
To request a "how to" kit for conducting community youth forums, members should call the APA Campaign Services Bureau toll-free at 877-274-8787, ext. 135. You can also access information about this project by visiting the APA web site,
The public is encouraged to request a free copy of the "Warning Signs" guide by calling 800-
268-0078 or by visiting APA's consumer Help Center web site. To request a forum in your area if you are in Tennessee, email Nancy Stott, Ed.D.
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