Norwalk Reflector: 'Concerning,' 'disturbing' youth statistics revealed in county check-up

'Concerning,' 'disturbing' youth statistics revealed in county check-up

Zoe Greszler • Sep 22, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Huron County’s health assessment, which was released Monday, revealed more youths are drinking, having sex, being bullied and considering suicide.

The Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio conducted the survey of the county, reaching 474 youth (12 to 18 years) and 371 children (0 to 11 years) through the area school districts. However, two unspecified districts opted to remove the questions on students’ sexual activity from the surveys. 

The council’s community health improvement coordinator Tessa Elliot said the survey helps to determine “How healthy is the community? How stable is the comunity?” 

Physically, while more youths have become overweight or obese (representing 15 to 20 percent of the students), 54 percent of students have tried losing weight — 5 percent more than three years ago. 

Mental health

Mentally, though, the youth of our communities say they are troubled. 

All mental indicators on the survey reportedly declined, reporting the worst numbers in a least 10 years. all above the state average. Most however, are on par with the national average.

• 18 percent reported having “seriously considered attempting suicide” in the past year.

• 7 percent actually attempted suicide.

• Nearly 30 percent said they felt “sad” or “hopeless” almost every day for two or more weeks. More than a third of high school students reported these feelings. 

Major sources of anxiety, stress or depression were reported as academic success, self-image, other stress at home, fighting with friends, fighting in the home, sports, death of a loved one, being bullied, break-ups, peer pressure, dating relationships and parental divorce or separation. 

Sexual behavior

About a third of all youths surveyed reported having had sexual intercourse. That number increases dramatically when high school students are singled out — half of all students in ninth through twelfth grade said they have had sex. 

* 35 percent of youths used a condom the last time they had intercourse, down from 62 percent in 2014.

* 10 percent did not use any method to prevent pregnancy the last time they had intercourse.

* 19 percent of sexually-active youths had four or more sexual partners.

* 1 percent reported they had sex before they were 13 — lower than the state and national average of 4 percent.

• 31 percent of all youths had participated in sexting in the past year. That breaks down to 7 percent of youths 13 years and younger, 31 percent of  students 14 to 16 years and 58 percent of students 17 years and older.

• 5 percent of youths were touched in an “unsafe, sexual way.”

Alcohol consumption

* 47 percent of youths 12 years and older have tried alcohol.

* 23 percent are “current drinkers.”

* 12 percent of all youths and 19 percent of high school students say they are binge drinkers.

* 13 percent of students drank before they were 13 years old.

* 14 percent rode in the car with someone who was drinking. 

* 2 percent said they drank and drove.

Violence and bullying

As bullying issues continue to pop up in nearly every school district, Huron County is no exception. In fact, 6 percent, 2 percent higher than 2014, reported not going to school because they felt unsafe. About half of all youths said they were bullied in the past year. About a third of students reported that happened on school property, dramatically higher than state and national averages — one-fifth of students. 

Most bullying is reported to happen to students between 14 and 16 years. 

• 3 percent said they carried a weapon (a gun, knife or club) on school property in the past month.

• 7 percent were threatened or injured by a weapon on school property in the past year.

• 36 percent said they verbally bullied, 27 percent were indirectly bullied, 13 percent were cyber bullied, 8 percent were physically bullied and two percent were sexually bullied.

• 12 percent of those bullied attempted suicide in the past year, as opposed to 3 percent of non-bullied students. Another 26 percent seriously considered it if they were bullied, compared to 9 percent who weren’t bullied.

• 2 percent of the youths reported being “physically forced to have sexual intercourse.” This increased to 3 percent with only high school students.

These numbers coincide with to those reported amoung adults.

“The number of people focred to have sex, or who were raped, we just didn’t use that terminology, those numbers are pretty traumatic,” said county health commissioner Tim Hollinger. “That really concerned us. That’s a lot of people and that’s just the cases that are reported. There are probably more cases that are unreported. It’s disturbing.”

What’s next?

Regardless of what the situation is that causes a community member to become a victim, local doctor Jennifer Prince, assistant director of Huron County Mental Health Services, said it can have continued detrimental effects on the community.

“Some victims create victims,” she said. “It’s a dynamic pattern that repeats itself and compounds.”

Hollinger said to stop these issues from continuing the intervention has to come for the children and youth of the county.

Prince agreed.

“The answer to all of this the youths,” she said. “It’s really hard to change adult behavior. We need youth programs. We need to start concentrating on the youth because we’re not going to win with the adults.”

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