May 19, 2022

Lyme-Old Lyme Students Present Findings from Community Survey at Forum

These Lyme-Old Lyme students led the 2022 Community Forum, which presented the findings of the 2021 Community Survey.

LYME/OLD LYME — On March 29, results from the 2021 Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB)/Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition (LOLPC) Youth Survey were discussed at a Community Forum at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School.

This survey was conducted in December 2021 with 662 students in 6th through 12th grade reporting on behaviors and trends related to alcohol, marijuana, vaping, other substances, and mental health.

Eight Lyme-Old Lyme (LOL) High School students participated in a youth panel to offer parents and other community members an opportunity to learn directly from them what it is like to be a teenager in Lyme-Old Lyme.

Highlights from their well-spoken, direct dialogue with the audience included kids growing up much too fast in a time of easy access, reduced perception of harm of substances, perfectionism, being over-scheduled, and being inundated with social media platforms from a very young age.

The Youth Survey reported that alcohol is still the number one substance used by LOL students with average age of first use being reported at 14.0 years old. Lifetime and recent use trends of alcohol have reduced since 2019, but national trends advise that we should understand that a “COVID Effect” might be in play resulting from isolation and lock-down.

An alarming statistic shows that the number of students, who think drinking every day is harmful, decreased from 50.9 to 27.7 percent in just two years. Similar numbers were reported for binge drinking (five or more drinks at a time) and using marijuana one to two times per week. 

The panel of students offered some insight for this drop in perceived harm. 

One reason they provided is that during isolation kids turned to their phones and social media for entertainment and communication. They explained that Snap Chat, TikTok, and Instagram normalize drinking and drug use, and kids don’t actually realize the amount of danger they can be put in with substance use. 

Social media also supports a climate for bullying, social influencing, negative mental health and self-image. The Youth Panel reported feeling that kids aren’t ready for today’s social media in Middle School or younger. Panel members encouraged parents to educate themselves and think about their own choices for their young children when it comes to phones and social media.

Survey data revealed that the mental health of our youth has followed national trends and reduced over the past two years. 

Of the students surveyed, 70 percent reported feeling stressed, 60 percent reported feeling anxious, 28% reported feeling so sad over the past two weeks that it limited daily activity, and 21 percent reported thinking about suicide. The Youth Panel agreed with these numbers and strongly encouraged audience members to understand the challenges of growing up as a teenager right now.  

Teens are inundated with pressures, intense schedules, social media influences, and the connection with drugs and alcohol plays a definite role. The survey data shows that youth, who reported marijuana use, identify coping with stress and other challenges as a primary reason they use. 

The survey also showed that only 40-60 percent of students (grade-dependent) feel that their families have clear rules around alcohol and drugs. This is an important statistic because the October LOLPC Community Survey showed that 100% of participating parents reported clear rules around alcohol. 

This is an opportunity for parents to recognize the importance of early, consistent, and on-going conversations around drugs and alcohol. The Survey and Youth Panel identify parents as role models with parental disappointment being one of the main reasons kids choose not to drink or use drugs.

The panel reported that kids are watching their parents and how they deal with stress, cope with life around them, and how they role model substance use. One student said “That’s what we are going to absorb and see as normal. My advice is to keep talking and to do the kinds of things that are healthy and good because kids are watching.”

Marijuana use, perception of harm, and its connection to our kids’ mental health was also discussed at the Forum  

The survey data shows the average age of first use of marijuana in LOL is 14.1, and by 12th grade, 19 percent of students reported trying marijuana, but the Youth Panel felt that number was under-reported.  

They also shared that teens acknowledge drinking and driving is very dangerous, but that “smoking weed” and driving is something that “kids do all the time.” This is another area for us to keep discussing with our kids and each other, with recent adult-use cannabis legalization and its impact on our communities.

The Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition is a DFC grant-funded community organization dedicated to prevention and supporting all youth and families. 

For more information about this survey, LOLPC campaigns and programs, or to become involved, visit www.lysb.org/prevention or contact Alli Behnke, MSW at abehnke@lysb.org

Editor’s Note: Alli Behnke, MSW is the LYSB Prevention Coordinator.

Comments

  1. Bill Rayder says

    You guys rock!! We are all excited about the way you conduct yourselves and for setting such a great example for those coming after you.
    Bill Rayder

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