Creston Valley youth learn from health study

Web Lead

  • Jan. 13, 2011 11:00 a.m.

Creston’s youth have a strong awareness of what’s going on around them, which will be demonstrated when 16 one-minute films are shown on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Prince Charles Theatre.

While discussing the results of the 2008 McCreary Centre Society’s Adolescent Health Survey in November, 100 Creston Valley Grade 7 students were divided into groups that created artwork to make a short film.

Creston public health nurse Claire Bouchard joined a group that discussed, with great insight, the easy accessibility of drugs.

“I was impressed because it wasn’t just, ‘Drugs are bad,’ ” she said. “They have the understanding that if you want something in Creston, you can get it.”

With the help of Vancouver-based Reel Youth, each group made a film illustrating the effects of a variety of behaviours.

Bouchard’s group used a dinosaur theme to illustrate how drug use can get out of control. When the dinosaur pulled on a vine, a volcano erupted.

Another group’s video dealt with violence and used balloons, one with a pleasant face, and others with angry faces and tacks on their tails. After the mob attacked and popped the other balloon, they, too, began to deflate.

The Vancouver-based McCreary Centre Society, which focuses on the health and well-being of youth, distributes its 20-page survey to students in grades 7-12 every four years in co-operation with schools and public health nurses. The survey covers everything from living arrangements, high-risk behaviours and eating habits to bullying, suicide and peer relations.

Once the results are compiled, the Next Steps program brings the survey results to the kids.

“They help the kids to understand, and then they help them do something about it,” said Bouchard.

The survey showed some results that surprised Bouchard, such as that one out of 10 children in the East Kootenay go to bed hungry, and that only 32 per cent of local youth have had sexual intercourse by the end of high school.

Other results that stood out were:

• Similar to 2003, 69 per cent of Kootenay youth had tried more than just a few sips of alcohol, higher than the provincial rate of 54 per cent. Forty percent of students had tried marijuana, a local decrease from 50 per cent in 2003, but higher than the provincial rate of 30 per cent. Six per cent drove after using marijuana, and seven per cent drove after drinking alcohol.

• The percentage of Kootenay youth who had used substances other than alcohol or marijuana was similar to the province as a whole. However, Kootenay students were more likely to have tried mushrooms (13 per cent vs. eight), hallucinogens (eight vs. five) and inhalants (seven vs. four). Eight percent of students in this area had used ecstasy, and one per cent had used crystal meth; both percentages were comparable to the provincial rate.

• Unchanged from 2003, 22 per cent percent reported that they had been physically abused, and 11 per cent had been sexually abused.

• Although still above the provincial rate of 26 per cent, there was a decrease in the percentage of Kootenay youth who had ever tried smoking, from 49 per cent in 2003 to 38 per cent in 2008.

• Most youth lived with a one or two parents, six per cent had no parent home when they woke up and three per cent had no parent home when they went to bed. Three per cent lived with unrelated adults and one per cent lived with no adult.

• Seventeen per cent of students reported having been bullied at least once, with seven per cent experiencing it more than once. Those who experienced cyber-bullying were far more likely to experience extreme sadness or hopelessness, and twenty-four per cent had serious thoughts of suicide. However, being connected to family or school, having input into their extracurricular activities and being involved in activities that were meaningful to them were associated with a lower risk of suicidal thoughts.

• Fifty-five per cent of healthy weight girls were trying to lose weight, and 10 per cent of healthy weight boys were trying to gain weight.

Bouchard is pleased by the way students responded to the results, and hopes the knowledge will stick with them as they go through high school.

“If young people are told to do something, it’s useless,” said Bouchard. “When they understand an issue for themselves, they own it and they want to do something. That’s when change happens.”

The full Adolescent Health Survey results can be found at www.mcs.bc.ca.

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