Mascoma Community Voices
On Tuesday, April 26, 2016, parents, community members, and school personnel gathered to look at results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted with students at the Mascoma Valley Regional High School [Presentation]. The data include both good news and issues of concern, but the group expressed a desire to work together to find solutions. On the positive side, when the Mascoma Valley Prevention Network formed in 2010, the coalition’s goal was to reduce the age of onset for using alcohol and marijuana. Since then, efforts throughout the district have led to sharp reductions in the percentage of youth who report using cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana before the age of 13. The percentage of students reporting recent use of alcohol, binge drinking, and marijuana has similarly gone down since 2007. The percentage of students who report they have ever used prescription medications without a doctor’s order, Ecstacy, heroin, or inhalants has also declined. These results suggest that all the actions taken within the community and in the school district to raise awareness of the dangers of youth substance use, to provide services to support students and families, and to provide opportunities for youth to be involved in positive activities have made a difference.
People attending expressed concern about data that point to an increase in mental health concerns for students. One in three students surveyed reported they had felt sad or hopeless for two weeks straight during the previous year. One in ten students said they had attempted suicide, while nearly one in five said they had seriously considered suicide. Of great concern to parents and school officials was the report by nearly 79% of students that they would not talk to a parent about negative emotions. Parents were also concerned about data that point to a level of dating violence that, while not our of line with regional and state statistics, are higher than a parent would like to accept. Over 12% of students reported experiencing sexual dating violence during the past year. Nearly half of students who reported ever having had sexual intercourse, said they had not used a condom during their last intercourse. Relationship issues may well be connected to mental health concerns and the group agreed to look at these together to see what improvements could be made. The school district already has an unusually high level of resources focused on supporting students and has demonstrated an interested in working with the community to provide more support. While rates of suicide and emotional distress are rising nationally, the community members at this forum were not prepared to sit back to see what happens.
Staff at All Together and the Mascoma Valley Prevention Network will be reaching out to forum attendees and others for further work on an action plan for the region. Contact Alice Ely (firstname.lastname@example.org) to become involved. The full report of the Mascoma Valley YRBS is available on the school district’s website.