GREENFIELD – Despite rising rates of depression and anxiety among young people in the area, data from the Community That Care Coalition 2021 Teen Health Survey show that substance use has declined dramatically among students during the COVID- pandemic 19.
During a meeting of the Coalition of Caring Communities on Friday afternoon, organizers shared the results of the 2021 Adolescent Health Survey.
Sage Shea, evaluator of the Partnership for Youth program, said the Community That Care Coalition has been collecting this local data since 2003. Students in eight, ten and twelve grades from nine school districts are participating in the annual regional survey.
Participating districts include: Four Rivers Charter Public School, Franklin County Technical School, Greenfield and the Frontier, Gill-Montague, Mohawk Trail, Pioneer Valley, Ralph C. Mahar and Athol Royalston Regional School Districts. Although they were presented with the option of not participating in the survey this year due to the pandemic, the nine schools still participated in an online survey and submitted a total of 1,539 responses.
“Which shows us how much they really value the data we provide each year,” Shea said.
Shea explained that the survey questions touch on areas of mental health, substance use, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. While they typically rotate between three different surveys on adolescent health issues, this year an abbreviated survey was created to include questions about students ’experiences during COVID-19 quarantine.
One of the major contributions of the survey results is that students report high rates of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. According to reports, girls struggle more than boys and mental health disparities are higher for queer students. Symptoms of depression and anxiety have increased from 32 and 33 percent in 2019 to 42 and 43 percent, respectively.
Depression and anxiety were reported in approximately twice as many students who identified outside of male or female genders, or queer or questioning sexual orientation, compared to heterosexual or male or female identifying students. Similarly, rates of depression and anxiety would be higher in students of color than in whites.
Despite increasing stress and anxiety, substance use had declined and decreased even more drastically during the pandemic. Shea noted that lack of social activity and time spent at home with parents are factors that may have contributed to the sharp decline.
Alcohol consumption decreased from approximately 35% in 2014 to approximately 23% in 2019, dropping to 13% since the pandemic. Marijuana use fluctuated between 22 and 26 percent from 2014 to 2019, dropping to 14 percent since the pandemic. Students who reported vaping went from less than 15 to more than 30 percent between 2016 and 2019, but dropped to 11 percent from 2019 to date.
Shea noted that alcohol consumption among teens has steadily declined over the past four years and that alcohol consumption among those who identify as non-male or female has dropped from 30% in 2019 to the current 7%. .
“So they can be incredibly stressed and anxious, but they don’t resort to drugs and alcohol to deal with it,” Shea said.
Of those who conducted the survey, approximately 47% were women, 48% were men, and 4% were transgender or nonconforming. In terms of sexual orientation, 79% identified themselves as heterosexual and 21% as strange. About 66% said they had a “high socioeconomic status,” while 34% had a “low socioeconomic status.” Nearly 77% identify as white, 9% identify as Hispanic or Latino, 4% as a Native American or Alaska Native, 3% as Asian, and 5% as black.
While suicidal ideation has not increased since 2019, the steady 18% level remains a cause for concern, Shea said. Data on suicidal ideation are important to consider in the context of access to lethal tools, a significant risk factor for ending suicide. Among respondents, 7% report that “there is a weapon in the house to which they have access.”
According to the survey, 20 percent of students said they sought help from friends, followed by 16 percent who asked for help from parents and 15 percent from a therapist. Five percent said they were looking for a doctor, 4 percent school counselors and 3 percent teachers. Although less than 10% said they turned to a school counselor or teacher for help in the past 12 months, Shea said 62% reported having an adult at school with whom they feel who can speak.
“It simply came to our notice then. It’s not that they don’t trust adults in the school system, but they find that they feel supported by these groups, ”said Shea.
Nearly 60 percent of respondents reported that school was more stressful and enjoyed less than before the pandemic. About 53 percent said they learned less this past year. However, nearly nine out of ten students said their teachers are focused on teaching and that 86% do not skip classes even though online learning makes it easier to skip, he said. Shea.
More than half of the students said they felt more alone than before the pandemic. Not surprisingly, 60 percent also report spending less time with their friends. The use of video games and social media is increasing, with half of students using computers to work out of school more than four hours a day and sleeping less than six hours a night.
Another section of the survey, related to racism and discrimination, asked students about experiences with microaggression and the representation of their race in and out of the classroom. Between 10 and 38 percent more white students said “yes” compared to black students when asked if they felt their race was positively represented on television and film, it was taught. their culture and traditions, they read books with characters of their race they felt that their race was quite represented in what they learned.
Students of color also report noticeably higher rates of overt discrimination. Reports of illegal discipline and arrests were higher among black and white groups, at 42 to 34 percent. Reports of police harassment were drastically different among racial groups, with 17% of black students reporting police harassment. Native Americans report similar rates, while Asian and Pacific Islander communities do not report incidents of police harassment.
The full results of the Coalition for Adolescent Health Survey of Caring Communities in 2021 can be found at bit.ly/3ykPAAD.
Zack DeLuca can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4579.