What Statewide Data is Telling Us About Youth
When we start a new year, we often take “inventory” – look to make improvements like changing our habits, improving our health, bettering our mindset, etc. One thing we should ALL do is focus on improving our interactions with young people in our communities.
Data from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Sur vey (MIYHS) is very helpful in shedding light on youth behavior and perceptions. It covers topics ranging from nutrition to mental health to substance use. MIYHS is a biennial survey of students in grades 5 to 12. There were a few key findings from the 2021 MIYHS (statewide data) that are alarming. It’s important to note that these data points are higher for folks who identify as part of minority groups (race, gender, sexuality).
30% of Middle School Students felt sad or hopeless every day for 2 weeks in a row in the last year
36% of High School Students felt sad or hopeless every day for 2 weeks in a row in the last year
Only about half of students FELT THEY MATTERED to their community
55% of Middle School Students felt like they mattered to people in their community
52% of High School Students felt they mattered to people in their community
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Talk with youth every day, asking open-ended questions. Be curious about their interests. Check-in and help build connection to peers, school, and the community-at-large.
Adults, especially parents/caregivers, are very important figures in a young person’s life. Make sure you set rules, disapprove of substance use, and provide reasonable consequences.
BE A TRUSTED RESOURCE:
Build trust and be reliable source of information. You can share your own experiences.
LOCK UP SUBSTANCES:
Limit access to drugs and alcohol to keep youth safe. This includes prescription medications.
Educate yourself on mental health red-flag signs. Get help for youth who may be experiencing suicidal ideation or high-risk substance use.
CREATE SAFE SPACES:
Make home, school, and community spaces welcoming and judgment-free zones for youth.