Results: Healthy Kids Survey

Lucia Zettler, Photo and Website Editor

Recently, FYI (Family Youth Initiative) presented data from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey that was taken by Salida High School Students in November 2021. These results have given great insight into teen health behaviors and have offered a guide for administrators. 

One piece of data from the results that the administration took interest in was a section on how comfortable students feel with staff in the school. It revealed that 83% of students in Chaffee County have a staff member that they can turn to when they’re struggling.

“The school is examining Advisory and ensuring that we have a curriculum which supports students’ essential skills for college and career readiness. We have also added a school counselor and Sol Vista therapist to support students’ mental health, ” Hull said.  

Another piece of data that FYI member and prevention specialist Dibby Olson found encouraging was the trend of alcohol and substance abuse in Chaffee County. Luckily, it has been on a downward trend since 2017, with regular alcohol use falling from 32% in 2015 to 6% in 2021. E cigarette and marijuana usage has followed a similar path, with E cigarette usage falling from 44% in 2017 to 22% in 2021, and marijuana usage falling from 31% in 2019 to 17% in 2021. Hull and Olsen have loosely attributed this to FYI and some of the prevention initiatives that they have been teaching in schools, such as Life Skills Training; a long term prevention program that SHS staff Haley Hume and Matt Luttrell have been teaching with support from FYI. 

“Being a prevention educator, I hope it’s because of the good work we’re doing. I firmly believe that when kids learn the facts I think they make different decisions,” Olson said. 

The survey also covers the reasons why kids use substances. One of the reasons that stuck out for Olson was that 15% of students use substances to cope with difficult feelings. Olson hopes that continuing the prevention message and strategies to cope with stress should help with that. 

“We definitely are gonna continue with our curriculum that we’ve been doing. It addresses the root cause of why kids use substances […] so, you know, the curriculum helps kids learn how to deal better and maybe not use.” She explained. 

Despite anti-drug initiatives by the school and FYI, substance abuse levels in Chaffee County are still significantly higher than in Colorado as a whole. 

“When data is presented to the community, you can see areas of strength and areas of growth. Areas of growth for Chaffee County which stand out in the data are a higher use of marijuana and alcohol compared to the rest of Colorado. The data also shows the need for continued support of student’s mental health.” Hull said. 

Something else that Olson found concerning is that the depression rates in Chaffee County students have consistently increased. Since 2015, the percentage of high school students that have experienced depression has gone from 35% to 48%. The rates for depression in LGBTQ+ students are particularly high, with around twice as many LGBTQ+ students experiencing depression, and almost four times LGBTQ+ students that have seriously considered suicide compared to heterosexual teens. 

Clara Streeter, a junior at SHS and member of ETC (Extraordinary Teen Council) was the youth member in charge of writing a welcome speech for the January data presentation. Along with her role in introducing the data, she has a unique perspective on this particular issue. 

“I know some people who identify on that spectrum [LGBTQ+] who are Salida natives born and raised, and the stuff that they go through in that particular area like abuse, drug abuse or just not being accepted by their community is just really heartbreaking. And I hope that for this year it has gone down, but if it goes up, I think there needs to be a serious change and there needs to be some things implemented to address that,” she explained. 

Similarly to substance use, the data shows that rates of depression and suicidal thoughts in Chaffee are higher than in Colorado as a whole. Hull and Olsen are working to improve this through programs with counselors as well as advisors. 

The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey has offered a lot of vital information for administration and mental health programs to work with to improve our school and its environment. A high number of SHS students say they have someone to talk to in times of need.  If someone you know is feeling down or having thoughts of suicide, encourage them to speak to a counselor or call Colorado Crisis Services at 844-493-8255.