MU's Wellness Resource Center sets facts straight

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:38 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 31, 2014

COLUMBIA — Students often overestimate how much their peers are drinking. It’s easy to do. After all, it’s usually the wildest person at the party who gets all the attention.

However, MU's Wellness Resource Center staff found that seven in 1o students consume between zero and four drinks while partying.

While the university doesn’t support underage drinking, and a minor in possession, will result in meetings, fines and other unpleasant disciplinary action, it does promote safe decision-making and student empowerment through education.

The center works collaboratively with the campus and the community to support good decision-making, said Kim Dude, the director of the Wellness Resource Center.

"We take a responsible decision-making approach to help educate our students that do drink to drink in a responsible manner," she said.

The center, located in the basement of the MU Student Center, has been equipping students with information, dispelling myths and preventing unhealthy behaviors since 1990.

The "Most of Us" campaign, launched in 2005, aims to break down misconceptions students have about alcohol, tobacco and prescription drug use.

The old days of scare tactics are over, said Chelsie Covey, a graduate research assistant for the center.

Researchers found that people conform to what they perceive to be the norm, known as the social norm theory. But with more than 34,000 students on campus, it’s hard to actually know what the norm is.

That’s where the Wellness Resource Center steps in. Using data and surveys, the center, in conjunction with Partners in Prevention, determined how much people are drinking, smoking, taking prescription drugs and having sex, among other things.

The center turned its data sets into Andy Warhol-inspired posters to bust the myths and arm students with an accurate picture of what their peers are doing.

By closing the gap between what people think is happening and what is actually happening, the center hopes to help students make more informed decisions, Covey said.

Another somewhat surprising statewide statistic pertains to sex.

Students in Missouri tend to overestimate the number of sexual partners their peers have. The 2014 Missouri College Student Behavior Survey found that while students report having just one or two partners in the year, those same students perceive their peers as having as many as five or six partners during that same time period.

Resource Center staff offer campaigns throughout the year. These include Alcohol Responsibility Month in October, Safe Spring Break in March, Self-Care Week in November and Prescription Drug Take-Back in April.

The biggest event of the year, the Fall Resource Fair, will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 22 in Stotler Lounge in Memorial Union. There will be about 45 booths with groups from both on and off campus, said Tiffany Bowman, a wellness coordinator with the center.

It’s a great way to get involved and learn about leadership opportunities on campus, said senior Ryan McLaughlin.

“There’s also all sorts of free stuff,” he said.

This year’s giveaway: a black tank top with a statistic about drinking that will help you beat the heat and the misconceptions.

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