ORLANDO, Fla. - Taylor Meyer was 17 years old when she died after binge drinking. Her mother, Kathie Meyer Sullivan, says all she has left are pictures of her teenager around the house.
"She got together with a bunch of friends of hers and ended up drinking for the night," Sullivan explained.
Taylor was drunk and wandered away from her friends.
Three days later she was found dead, face down in a couple feet of water.
"She was supposed to do a lot more than that," Sullivan said.
Overall about 5,000 kids die each year because of underage drinking, and 52 percent of teens have consumed alcohol by the eighth grade. A study shows out of the 20 million alcoholics in America, more than half started drinking as teens. Psychologist Deborah Day says it's important kids know the consequences.
"They're not prepared for the impact of drugs and alcohol on their systems," said Day.
Talking to teens about underage drinking can be tricky. So, here are some tips the Mayo Clinic recommends. Share the facts. Make sure they realize anyone, even teens, can develop a drinking problem.
Debunk the myths. While teens may think drinking will make them popular and give them a high, let them know it's a depressant that can lead to sadness and anger too. And get ready to answer tough questions about your own drinking habits. Consider sharing a story about a negative consequence your drinking caused. Sullivan has shared her daughter's deadly story with kids in more than 100 schools.
"I let them know, Taylor didn't die of a brain tumor. She died because of poor choices surrounding alcohol," said Sullivan.
They're poor choices she hopes other teens won't make. The three leading causes of death for 15- to 24-year-olds are car crashes, homicides and suicides - alcohol is a leading factor in all three.
MORE TIPS FOR PREVENTION: There are many things parents and educators can do to help prevent youths from drinking.
- Discourage violation of alcohol rules by consistently enforcing them.
- Provide and promote multiple venues where adolescents can get together with their friends.
- Provide them with the developmentally appropriate knowledge, skills, and motivation to resist peer and other pressures to drink.
- Recognize and identify when a youth has a problem with alcohol use and assist them in finding professional or medical help.
- Make a special effort to be a mentor and confidant to your children/students; especially when they are going through times of stress from social transitions and increasing responsibility. (Source: www.surgeongeneral.gov)
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