More Clark County youth consider suicide

Health survey finds fewer county young people smoke, drink

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Fewer Clark County youth are smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol today than they were two years ago, according to the results of a statewide survey. However, the number of students who reported feeling depressed and contemplating suicide has gone up.

In 2012, more than 30 percent of local 10th- and 12th-graders reported experiencing feelings of depression and nearly 20 percent of high-schoolers reported having seriously considered suicide in the past year, according to the survey.

The Clark County findings mirrored results across the state.

"It's good to celebrate that fewer teens are using alcohol and tobacco, but it's clear many teens need more support from the adults in their lives and from friends to make healthy choices and cope with challenges," Kevin W. Quigley, Department of Social and Health Services Secretary, said in a news release.

The Washington State Department of Health released on Thursday the findings from the 2012 Healthy Youth Survey. The survey is taken every two years by students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12.

More than 200,000 students took part in the October 2012 survey, anonymously answering a wide variety of questions about their health and health behaviors.

Survey results show that cigarette smoking is continuing to decline across all grades. About 11 percent of Clark County 10th-graders reported being "current smokers," or having smoked cigarettes in the 30 days prior to the survey.

That's down from 14 percent in 2010.

However, the use of smokeless tobacco has remained unchanged. About 8 percent of 12th-graders are current smokeless tobacco users, according to survey results.

"We're certainly encouraged to see that fewer kids are smoking cigarettes," Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a news release. "In fact, smoking rates are half what they were a decade ago. … Still, we're seeing many teens using other types of tobacco, and using multiple substances, so there's more work to do."

Youth marijuana use in Clark County has declined slightly in the last two years, according to the survey.

About 25 percent of 12th-graders and 19 percent of 10th-graders reported using marijuana 30 days prior to the 2012 survey. In 2010, 26 percent of 12th-graders and 21 percent of 10th-graders were using marijuana.

However, the number of secondary school students who believe using marijuana is risky dropped to the lowest level since the state started collecting data, according to state officials. In Clark County, 37 percent of 12th-graders said they thought there was a great risk of harm from smoking marijuana once or twice a week.

Alcohol use among youth has also declined over the years.

While 67 percent of Clark County 12th-graders report having ever drank alcohol, about 36 percent said they had drank alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey. In 2010, those numbers were 72 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

Bullying numbers remained fairly static across all age groups in the last couple years. About 33 percent of sixth- and eighth-graders reported being bullied at school in 2012.

In 2010, the state added survey questions about sexual health.

In 2012, 51 percent of Clark County 12th-graders and 28 percent of 10th-graders reported having had sexual intercourse. Nearly 23 percent of local 12th-graders said they did not use a condom the last time they had intercourse.