Valley students face emotional battles, drug use, other problems
May 29, 2013
Depression, anxiety, drugs and alcohol are very real issues for many teens in the Snoqualmie Valley School District.
In October, students were asked to take a Healthy Youth Survey about such issues to help the school district get a feel for the well-being of its students. The anonymous survey was offered to students in the sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades, and asked questions about drug and alcohol usage, depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as questions that addressed family management.
The results shed light on some of the issues students are facing, and how they change as they grow up and face issues such as peer pressure and heightened anxiety.
Depression and anxiety
Snoqualmie Valley middle school students came in below state averages when it came to depression, but high school students were above average.
Depression was defined as “feeling so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that you stopped doing some usual activities” in the past 12 months, according to the summary of Healthy Youth Survey results.
About 21 percent of eighth-grade students reported feeling depressed, coming in below the 25 percent state average. High school students, however, were above the state average, 33 percent of 12th-grade students reported feeling depressed compared to 28 percent across the state.
“When you’re talking about depression and suicide, it’s always alarming,” said Steve Bates, counselor at Opstad Elementary School. “Even a small amount of people who are saying they have those ideas, that can be very scary.”
Bates said the survey analysis team is looking at a districtwide curriculum geared toward helping children and youths cope with hard things that happen to them, and learn how to handle those feelings.
“I think there are a lot of young people who have the feelings of depression,” Bates said. “We don’t always want to talk about those kinds of things. It’s scary, but I know as we open up in health classes in middle school and high school, and we talk about those kinds of things, it’s good.”
Alcohol, tobacco and other drug use
Of the substances surveyed — alcohol, tobacco and marijuana — alcohol continues to be the most commonly used substance. Alcohol and tobacco usage and binge-drinking results are down from 2010 for high school sophomores and seniors, but higher in eighth grade.
According to the survey results, almost 10 percent of students are using alcohol, up from 8 percent two years ago. Tobacco usage rose from 3 percent to 5 percent, and marijuana use rose from 4 percent to 7 percent in two years.
Bates accredited the rise of marijuana use to the legalization initiative on the ballot in November.
“We were reflecting on that, and when they took the test, it was when the adults were talking about marijuana use a lot more,” Bates said.
Across all three grades surveyed, marijuana was 3 percent to 8 percent, and was the only substance use that rose in the 12th-graders surveyed. Bates said he was not surprised by the results.
“We’ve gotten a pretty good picture of how kids in the Valley grow up,” he said. “Typically, the kids in our school district in sixth and eighth grade, their risk behaviors are quite low.”
By 10th grade, the students have caught up to state averages, and exceeded them by 12th grade. However, the results show that family management has improved. Bates said families are doing a better job setting consequences and guidelines for their children.
The school district has a part-time prevention and intervention specialist, Phoebe Terhaar, who was hired with a grant. However, that grant money is running out, and Bates said the burden would fall to the district to continue to employ her.
“I think everybody recognizes the need for mental health screeners,” Bates said.
Terhaar is able to identify students with risk factors to help students who may fall prey to peer pressure or experience depression or anxiety.
With four full-time counselors at Mount Si High School and district psychologists, Bates said there are people to help the students.
“The need seems to be out there and growing,” Bates said. “If nothing else, I think there are more kids that are experiencing those issues than there were in previous years. We’re certainly looking for additional ways to get help to young people.”
Feelings of depression
In the Snoqualmie Valley School District, the percentage of students who reported feeling depressed, contemplating suicide or actually attempting suicide were below or similar to state reports. Here is how local students answered. Numbers reflect the percent of students who said they had those feelings.
Feeling depressed 21
Seriously considered suicide 11
Actual suicide attempts 6
Feeling depressed 30
Seriously considered suicide 15
Actual suicide attempts 8
Feeling depressed 33
Seriously considered suicide 16
Actual suicide attempts 6
Whether you are in crisis or you are concerned about someone who is, you can call 1-800-273-TALK toll free and get a listening ear, resources and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline does not close on the weekend, holidays or during bad weather.
You may also call 911 for assistance with suicide. They will connect you to the Crisis Line for assistance.
Megg Joosten: 392-6434, ext. 221, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.snovalleystar.com.