By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
Everyone knows kids can be moody, big ups and downs are a part of teen life.
Yet a survey of Snohomish County students shows just out serious these emotional issues can be.
Nearly 19 percent of 10th graders said they seriously considered suicide, nearly 15 percent said they planned how to do it and nearly 9 percent said they attempted to end their lives.
Students in eighth and 12 grades also reported similar levels of emotional distress.
Questions on mental health were just part of a wide-ranging survey of 13,000 Snohomish County students and 200,000 statewide who participated in the Healthy Youth Survey.
The survey, conducted in October, is part of an ongoing effort conducted every two years to survey students on a variety of issues, including activity levels, bullying, alcohol and drug use.
“Clearly it is of concern that youth are considering suicide,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.
“Negotiating those teen years is hard. A lot of kids are saying it’s too hard.”
Johnna Stewart, elementary counseling coordinator for the Edmonds School District, that if students say they’re depressed or they don’t know how to handle their problems, these concerns should be taken seriously.
“One of the important parts to know is students of various ages have these feelings,” she said. Emotional dramas can begin in the fifth or sixth grade over breakups with friends and family issues, she said.
It often isn’t one particular incident, but an accumulation of emotional setbacks that lead students to consider suicide, said Pat Morris, program director for Volunteers of America’s care crisis response services.
Parents shouldn’t hesitate to ask their children if they’re thinking about suicide as a way to gauge their distress and their intentions, she said.
Help is available through either a hotline or the agency’s new chat line that’s been launched to assist people with mental health issues, she said.
The survey also asked Snohomish County students how difficult it would be to get alcohol if they wanted it, with nearly 35 percent of seniors reporting it would be easy. However, nearly a third of surveyed seniors also said they think it’s wrong for someone their age to use alcohol.
Nearly 20 percent of seniors said they had been in a car with someone who had been drinking and about 10 percent of 12th graders said they recently had driven a car after they had alcohol.
“This is nothing new,” Goldbaum said. “We are not doing a good enough job helping kids make better choices for themselves and their friends.”
One-quarter of surveyed seniors said they currently use marijuana. Although that’s similar to what was reported in 2010, marijuana use is a trend that should be closely monitored with the recent change in state law allowing anyone 21 or older to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana, Goldbaum said.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on student responses to a wide variety of survey questions, including bullying, tobacco use and physical activity is available at www.snohd.org/Shd_HS/HealthData.aspx. Scroll down to the Youth section.
A new Volunteers of America service providing on-line chats for anyone experiencing difficult emotional issues is available at http://carecrisischat.org/
Help also is available through the Volunteers of America Care Crisis hotline at 800-584- 3578.
Healthy Youth survey of Snohomish County teens
Recently rode with someone who had been drinking:
Nearly 20 percent of seniors
19 percent of 10th graders
Nearly 17 percent of eighth graders
Easy to get alcohol if they wanted it:
Nearly 35 percent of seniors
Almost 25 percent of 10th graders
13 percent of eighth graders
Handguns would be easy to get:
About 19 percent of seniors
15 percent of 10th graders
Nearly 16 percent of eighth graders
Currently use marijuana:
More than one-quarter of seniors
Nearly 19 percent of 10th graders
Nearly 8 percent of eighth graders
Seriously considered suicide:
16 percent of seniors
Nearly 19 percent of 10th graders
17 percent of eighth graders
Source: Snohomish Health District