Throughout my college career, I have done a lot of things in the campus community here at Stony Brook and joined/worked for various organizations. But out of everything, the one I’m most proud of is Red Watch Band. For those who are reading this and aren’t sure what Red Watch Band is, it’s a bystander intervention program that trains college students how to act in alcohol related emergencies. We have a CARE Team that makes up a group of student leaders on campus to recruit students to get trained, work outreach events, help coordinate trainings, spread the word about Red Watch Band, and be active bystanders. Last semester, I won the CARE Team MVP award and I was so honored – I organized six group trainings and worked many outreach events. I aspire to change this drinking culture. This semester I have the privilege of interning for Red Watch Band, and I hope that with my work through the organization, I can make a difference before I leave Stony Brook University in May.
This past weekend, we had our Spring semester retreat and it was so refreshing being all together again. The CARE Team for Red Watch Band is like a family, and we all support and empower each other. It’s an incredible feeling being in a room with other people who you know are all on your side, who all want to make the same positive changes that you do, who want to make a difference right alongside you. It’s inspirational. Each and every person in that room inspire me.
At the retreat, we had a panel of outstanding speakers – a NYC police officer, a volunteer EMT, and two fraternity brothers, one who overdosed on alcohol and the other who called for help in the situation. Although all the speakers were great and had many comments I could touch upon in this blog post, the situation I want to highlight is the fraternity brothers. When they were speaking about their situation, it really made me reflect. Long story short, one of the brothers, let’s call him John, got carried away drinking and overdosed, and when they returned to their dorm room, the other brother, we can call him Paul, noticed he was in a state that needed medical attention and wanted to call for help. However, the other fraternity brothers were insistent that John was fine and that they didn’t need to call, but in Paul’s gut, he knew the right thing to do was to make that phone call. And Paul was right. John could have died.
I have gotten help for someone in alcohol/drug related emergencies three times. Two friends and one stranger. And each time is scary and nerve wracking, and each time there were people there telling me not to do it. Not to make that phone call because hey, they’ll just sleep it off and be okay. Telling me I’m overreacting. But each time, I listened to my gut and I made the right choice. Because those people might not be alive today if wasn’t for me. No one should ever be afraid to make that step and get help or call 911 because nothing is worth potentially losing a friend over.
But I think this is what’s wrong with the college culture. That people think getting that intoxicated to the point where you are completely unresponsive and unconscious not a medical emergency. That people think that’s okay, and not just okay, but normal. “It happens to everyone, they’ll be fine,” we hear way too often and the thing is, they might not be fine. People shouldn’t be afraid to get help, and not only that, but everyone should be able to notice when a friend does need help. Last Spring, a freshman hear at Stony Brook University passed away because he overdosed on alcohol and no one noticed it was a medical emergency. He was at a fraternity party, and people just let him “sleep it off” on the couch while everyone else kept partying on. This is NEVER okay, a death that could have been so avoidable. And Red Watch Band has taught thousands and thousands of students to make sure that those situations are avoided and people know how to notice the signs and act on it.
There is nothing wrong with drinking as long as you’re safe. Red Watch Band doesn’t pledge abstinence whatsoever – I drink! I just drink responsibly and I look out for my friends and I’m aware of the signs of an alcohol or drug related emergency. But a lot of the college culture doesn’t recognize this and that’s why time and time again, students get transported because of these emergencies.
But we, as Red Watch Band, are making a difference. Too many college students pass away from alcohol and drug related complications/overdoses, and I wish that I could make that number zero, but we, as an organization of leaders on campus, are trying. We are working hard and I am so proud of everything that has been accomplished since I’ve joined and what I hear from in the past and what I know we’ll get done in the future. We had over 1,200 students trained last semester, more than Red Watch Band has ever had before, and we are getting more into high schools to make students more aware at a younger age. Slowly, but surely, I believe that the culture will change.
I am proud to be a part of Red Watch Band. I am proud to make a difference. I am proud to be a small factor in the change of a big picture. I am proud to say I want to change the culture, and I will aspire to have that number be zero.
If interested in getting trained or get Red Watch Band at your school, either contact me or go to redwatchband.org.