By UNC Media Hub/ Story: Rebekah Dare Guin, Video: Katie Kamen

Chapel Hill, N.C. — A small group of happy picnickers sits by the banks of a river when a sharp cry is heard above the wind. A man is tumbling through the water unable to get to shore. Without help, the man might die.

Distressed, the onlookers wade into the current and pull the stranger ashore. However, there is no time to rejoice because another victim is coming around the bend. More and more people keep coming down the river. Many are saved, but some slip by, and some pull their rescuers down with them.

Eventually, one person walks upstream to see why so many people are going into the water. There, a large sign with thick lettering reads, “Come on in, the water is fine.”

Elinor Landess, director of the Campus and Community Coalition, used this analogy to describe the mindset that surrounds alcoholism in American culture. Victims are pulled out of the water, but no one takes down the sign.

The public health model is taking down the sign. It is the mindset that you can pull individuals out of the water all day long, or you can treat the environment that is causing people to fall in in the first place.

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