Christian Ciammetti died of alcohol poisoning just two months before his 21st birthday.
His mother, Mary, is now on a mission so that no one has to experience what her family did. She started Don’t Stall, Just Call, an organization to spread awareness of the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning.
Mary Ciammetti, a 1984 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s University, returned to her alma mater Tuesday, just before the start of the fall semester, to speak to 45 Resident Assistants (RAs) about the effects of binge drinking.
She started by speaking of Christian’s accomplishments in school as well as his likes and hobbies.
“Those were the things that we knew about Christian,” she said. “There was something that we didn’t know and when we found out it was too late. Christian had become a binge drinker in college.
“I thought I knew what was going on, but I didn’t know,” she added.
Christian was a junior at Temple University and died in 2015.
“We want to create awareness, education and save lives,” she said. “My goal is that no other college student could ever say, ‘I didn’t know what to do.’”
Ciammetti hopes to get grade-appropriate education about alcohol poisoning for all schools in every state.
In her talk at Mount St. Mary’s, she explained what to do when someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning. She also explained what not to do.
College students, particularly in Christian’s situation, would do “the watch” where they would check on drunken friends who had passed out and see if they were OK, she explained.
Backpacking, the practice of propping someone up with a backpack full of books to prevent them from falling back and choking on their own vomit, is another way students would help their drunken friends when they were passed out.
“If anyone thinks that they need to backpack someone in order for them to stay alive through the night? No. Make a call. Get them to a hospital,” she said.
She also educated the RAs about the Medical Amnesty Policy, which states that the caller and the person experiencing alcohol poisioning will not be penalized legally in a life-threatening medical emergency. This protects underage college students who are in a life-threatening situation involving alcohol.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a 2015 study found that about 113 people between the ages of 15 and 24 die from binge drinking a year.
Don’t Stall, Just Call is promoted through word-of-mouth, social media, ads and different events throughout the year, such as a 5K run, Ciammetti said.
She speaks to 10 to 15 high schools and colleges, as well as other entities, a year about Don’t Stall, Just Call. Since the program’s inception in 2015, she has spoken to about 20,000 people.
Binge drinking is “a culture,” she said. “We need to work on the culture. We’re throwing one stone in and we’re trying to create a positive ripple effect. It won’t be a tidal wave. It’ll be little ripples of change.”
Mount St. Mary’s was not able to provide figures on how many alcohol-related incidents have been reported on campus.
Mount senior Victoria Morris has been an RA for three years and has been educated to identify the signs of alcohol poisoning in previous RA training sessions.
The most interesting thing she learned at the presentation was that consuming four drinks on one occasion is considered binge drinking.
“I’m 21 now, so a lot of my friends do drink,” she said. “That’s normal for people to drink four drinks in a span of two hours.”
To spread awareness, she plans on putting up Don’t Stall, Just Call magnets on the doors in her building.
“It’ll give more awareness too since we’re in the apartments and it’s kind of a party area, so there’s more binge drinking,” she said.
Sophomore Kenneth Burwell-Tibbs, a first-year RA, never thought about knowing the signs of alcohol poisoning before the presentation, but it opened his eyes to the signs and symptoms.
He plans to share what he has learned with students in his building.
“We have information boards in our halls, and I just went down and grabbed every thing I could to post it up there,” he said.
Ciammetti gave out magnets, stickers, pens, hats and bracelets with information on how to spot the signs of alcohol poisoning.
“I’m going to give all of those out so people can spread the word,” he said.
“Not only could it be you, but it could be your friend, your girlfriend, your brother, your sister, you never know who it could be,” he added. “I think we all need to take care of each other as residents and as people in the community.”
The initiative, though, is spreading at college campuses across the country.
Hood College is no exception.
At the start of each year, all Hood students are required to take an online course on alcohol abuse, prevention and training, said Laurie Ward, vice president of marketing and communications at Hood, in an email.
In the last three years, there was one case of an alcohol-related hospital visit involving a Hood student, Ward said.
Hood also holds events each semester, including Oksoberfest and Spring Break Safety, which “promote ways to have fun without alcohol and making smart choices.”
For more information on Don’t Stall, Just Call, visit dontstall.org.