How Rascal the Squirrel Teaches Safe Drinking Habits
October 23, 2023 Written by Sarah Cummings | Photo by Evan Krape
The Student Wellness and Health Promotion team at the University of Delaware is launching a new campaign to promote protective behaviors while drinking alcohol.
The campaign’s mascot is a squirrel named Rascal who demonstrates responsible alcohol consumption and shares statistics regarding UD students' behaviors and attitudes around drinking.
"Students are always talking to us about the squirrels on The Green, and honestly the images of the squirrels just made me laugh," said Helen Ann Lawless, Director of Strategic Wellbeing & Training, Interim Director of Student Wellness and Health Promotion. "We want students to understand that the majority of their peers are socializing responsibly and that they can still have fun while being safe too. I think students will love Rascal as a mascot for these messages."
Set to a seasonal background, Rascal the squirrel is featured participating in harm reduction strategies such as choosing a set number of drinks and staying with the same group of friends while partying. His name is an acronym:
Raid the cabinet for snacks before and while celebrating
Alternate water and alcohol
Stop before having too much to drink
CALL 911 for help if needed
The campaign is informed by social norms research in health communication, which has proven to be successful on other college campuses.
Kami Silk, Chairperson of the Department of Communication, is leading the research team behind the campaign and saw success with a similar program at Michigan State.
"Many students are influenced by what they think is 'normal' in their community,” said Silk. “So when a campaign can point to survey data that says that most UD students stopped before having too much to drink last Halloween, it helps students realize that most of their peers are not drinking as much as they initially thought. Over time, we will measure and hopefully see the impact of social norms messages on safe drinking and related behaviors."
Resetting norms around alcohol is considered a best practice for addressing problematic drinking behavior on college campuses.
Additionally, Student Wellness and Health Promotion—in partnership with Student Health Services and the Center for Counseling and Student Development—is hosting Fall Fest on South Green on Friday, October 27 from 4 to 6 p.m. The event will share information on healthy habits and resources around Halloween partying, as well as lawn games, raffle prizes, free food and live music.
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