By Davi Stein-Kiley, Courier & Press, Jan. 31, 2017 –
The domains of influence on our youth are many – school, community, friends, family, peers, and of course individual perspectives, differences and choice.
Perhaps you are already aware that in the 2014 Indiana Youth Survey conducted by the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, Southwestern Indiana students reported the following:
- 25.8% of 12th graders reported binge drinking within the last month
- 11.3% of 10th graders reported smoking cigarettes within the last month
- 5.8% of 12th graders reported using prescription drugs within the last month
- 21.5% of 8th graders reported feeling sad or hopeless within the last year
- 15.4% of 8th graders reported considering suicide within the last year
- 11.4% of 8th graders reported that had planned suicide within the last year
To view complete results go to youthfirstinc.org.
Why are these results so important to track?
Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are serious threats to the health, safety, and futures of our youth, families, and communities. Alcohol and other drug use are also the leading causes of crime among youth and major risk factors for teenage suicide and teenage pregnancy.
Study after study shows alcohol and other drug use interferes with school and life success. Students who are regular users are less likely to do well in school and less likely to graduate.
Youth who start using alcohol before the age of 15 are five times more likely to have alcohol dependency problems as adults than someone who begins drinking at the legal age of 21. Studies also show alcohol and other drug abuse is harmful to brain development in teens. The brain is not fully developed until age 24, so preventing, reducing, and delaying drug use is essential in helping our young people reach their full potential.
The Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC) was established in 1987 to help Indiana based alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) prevention providers enhance services in their respective communities.
A visit to the IPRC website http://www.drugs.indiana.edu/ helps Hoosiers recognize the amount of data that is collected to assist professionals in examining the course of potentially addictive behaviours and how they impact health outcomes in Indiana. There are also survey questions about mental health.
IPRC developed the Youth Survey in 1991, and schools have the opportunity to use the survey to gain greater detail about the lives, beliefs and perceptions of our young people. Participating in the survey provides everyone with working knowledge of risk factors that influence the use of drugs and alcohol as well as mental health concerns.
Among the risk factors measured are the perception of drug availability, community norms/favourable attitudes toward drug use, lack of commitment to school, rebelliousness, peer and problem behaviour, early initiation into problem behaviours, family management and conflict, friends who engage in problem behaviours, and school rewards for prosocial involvement.
According to the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (2013) it is important to look for clusters of risk and protective factors that have a cumulative effect on the overall outcomes for a community and for our state.
Youth First has supported looking at the data in Southwestern Indiana to gain perspective on our regional needs for service and intervention. Participation in the survey by 8th, 10th and 12th graders helps everyone have a better sense of how to help young people secure a healthier future.
Knowing the risk factors is also a way of understanding our weaknesses and building on strengths. We can assess and measure, inform and educate, plan, monitor and evaluate our health risks.
The survey will occur again this spring in area schools. Please encourage your teen to take part, and watch for Youth First’s report of outcomes that will help guide our work in assisting youth and families in our community.