Submitted by Bedford Youth and Family Services
November has been recognized as Substance Abuse Awareness Month in Bedford since 1998.Our hope is to enhance community awareness of alcohol, tobacco and other drug problems that may exist among children, adolescents and adults. As the effects of substance abuse are felt by the whole community, and need to be addressed by the whole community, we hope to mobilize citizens, community agencies, schools, religious organizations, businesses and health facilities to work together for education and prevention.
The Bedford Youth Risk Behavior Survey was administered to John Glenn Middle School and Bedford High School students in April of 2016. Well, the results are in! Keep reading to get an idea about how Bedford students’ lifestyles and behaviors affect their health.
The data are largely positive, with improving trends and positive state comparisons for important issues. Our substance use rates are well below state averages across the board. Alcohol use remained level, while cigarette use went down. There was an increase in the percent of Middle and High School students who reported having a trusted adult in school they can talk to, and we saw an increase in active bystander responses to bullying. Sexual behavior data show improvement in the level of condom use after years of declines, and our rates of sexually active high school students have gone down.
We saw an increase in marijuana use, but rates are still well below prior historical highs and the state average. Bullying continues to be an issue at the Middle and High School, with slight but consistent increases in the percentage of students who reported being bullied at school and bullied electronically. Our mental health data is also of concern with consistent increases in stress levels, depression, self-harm, and suicidality among Middle and High School students. We want no students to see self-harm and suicide as a problem solving technique.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Areas of Prevention for Families:
- Parents are the most important influence on their teen when it comes to risky behaviors. It’s important to talk often, listen regularly, and communicate clearly that you do not want your teen using alcohol or drugs. Using alcohol or drugs before the brain has fully developed increases your risk for future addiction dramatically.
- Families need to continue to remind kids about NOT drinking or using any substances and driving, or riding with someone who has, and be sure they can call home for a ride no matter what. Research shows that kids who learn the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use than those who do not.
- Parents can help to keep stress levels down by being certain that kids have a balance between activities, school, and unstructured leisure time. A good rule of thumb is involvement in one sport and one kind of other activity at a time.
- Be sure to spend enjoyable time together so that interactions aren’t only about school and other “chores.”Eat a meal together, watch a television show, go to a movie, read a book they have to read for school, do a project. Stay connected.
- If you are worried about your child’s mental health, take advantage of Bedford Youth and Family Services mental health screenings section of their webpage
www.bedfordma.gov/youthThe screening is anonymous and confidential. After answering a few questions, you will receive customized feedback, educational materials, and treatment resources if necessary.
You can view the full executive summary of the 2016 Bedford Youth Risk Behavior Survey as well as some of the main survey findings related to substance use, violence and safety, and mental and physical health on Bedford Youth and Family Services website www.bedfordma.gov/youth under the Prevention Services section.
We will be working over the next year to share this information as broadly as possible. We will also be working with youth at both JGMS and BHS to get the results to students in a way that supports their healthy choices
For more information or to schedule a presentation to your group contact Jessica Wildfong, Prevention Services Coordinator email@example.com or 781- 275-7727 ext. 262.