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Iowa Youth Survey results show HC youth suffering from poor mental health

While students’ use of alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco is steadily declining, mental health concerns and the use of electronic cigarettes are on the rise, according to the results from the 2018 Iowa Youth Survey from Henry County.

The 2018 Iowa Youth Survey county reports are designed to help local and state-level planners, community agencies, and school personnel identify youth development needs, implement relevant, targeted interventions, and assess outcomes. The Henry County results from the survey were released last week.

A total of 70,451 validated records were received from students in Iowa, 1,360 of which were from students attending non-public school. Records were from 225 of Iowa’s 330 public school districts and from 13 of 170 non-public schools. In Henry County, there were a total of 631 validated records received from students in sixth, eighth, and 11th grades.

The survey asks students 212 questions and is divided into seven sections of demographic characteristics, things about me, my beliefs and attitudes, peer questions, school questions, family questions and community questions.

Mental health

The survey results showed that a quarter of students in Henry County are suffering from poor mental health.

Over the past 12 months, 25 percent of students reported feeling sad or hopeless every day for two weeks or more in a row to the point that they stopped doing some of their usual activities. Furthermore, 21 percent answered that they had seriously thought about killing themselves, 12 percent had made plans to kill themselves, and 6 percent said they had tried to kill themselves over the past year.

Students also reported being prescribed medication from their doctor for feeling angry, anxious, restless, nervous or sad. 11 percent of students take medication prescribed to them by a doctor to help them feel less angry, anxious, restless or sad and 83 percent are not prescribed medication.

During a meeting with the Board of Health on May 14, Chris Kempker, with the Iowa State Extension Office, said that they are trying to combat mental health issues by implementing a freshman orientation day for eighth-graders at Mt. Pleasant Community High School. Eighth-grade students are invited to meet with teachers at the high school and talk with students to help ease their anxiety.

“We’re just finding that kids are having more substantial issues at a younger age. They’re not the same kids of 10 or 15 years ago,” Kempker said.

The Iowa State Extension Office received the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Services Grant for another year to help address mental health concerns and educate students about the dangers of binge drinking, tobacco and electronic cigarette use and marijuana, Kempker said.

In the classroom, 28 percent of students reported across all grades that a classroom teacher had to stop teaching to deal with a major student disruption or behavior problem three or more times in the past 30 days.

Electronic cigarettes,

tobacco and alcohol

The Iowa Youth Survey results from Henry County also showed that 4 percent of students in all grades had used an electronic cigarette in the last 30 days and 3 percent had used an electronic cigarette or cigarette one or two times on school property in the past year; however, 81 percent reported never having used an electronic cigarette.

Even so, in a Board of Health meeting last month, Kempker said they are seeing a higher reported use of electronic cigarettes and youth drinking at a younger age.

“E-cigarette use is becoming an issue and an epidemic among youth, with an estimated 1.5 million youth having used or tried e-cigarettes,” Kempker said during a meeting on May 14. “From everything I’ve heard, the high school is having a major issue with it as are all schools.”

In fact, 8 percent of students had first used an electronic cigarette at 13 or 14 years old, which is the highest percentage of time when a student first tried an electronic cigarette.

When it comes to cigarettes, 97 percent of students answered that they had not smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days and 72 percent said it was a great risk to smoke cigarettes every day. However, 10 percent of students across all grades said they had smoked tobacco or used a tobacco product at some time.

When students were asked how old they were when they first had more than a few sips of alcohol, 70 percent of students across all grades answered they had never had alcohol and 6 percent answered they were eight years old or younger.

In the past 30 days, 11 percent of students answered that they had at least one drink of alcohol, including 25 percent of 11th-graders. Across all grades, 89 percent of students in Henry County answered that they had not had alcohol in the past 30 days.

Additionally, 59 percent of students in all grades said it was a great risk to drink five or more drinks of alcohol within a couple of hours more than once a week.

County reports from the Iowa Youth Survey are more subject to sampling error than the data collected from the state as a whole, according to the survey. The more school districts that participate in the survey, the more likely the reported percentages are accurate estimates of the attitudes and behaviors of students that reside in the county.

The 2018 Iowa Youth Survey was conducted online and administered by the Iowa Department of Public Health.