News and Tribune

Lifestyles

April 25, 2014

YOUTH COUNT: Why kids need you

Several times each week, I have the opportunity to see great news about youth from organizations, schools and individuals who work to ensure our young people experience the best our communities have to offer. This news also includes sobering statistics, several of which I share with you today.

The most recent newsletter from Brandon’s House, which provides free counseling for teens and families, included statistics about economic well being for children 18 and younger. In 2012, 20 percent of children in Floyd County were living in poverty, 18.2 percent in Clark County and 15.9 percent in Harrison County. Poverty can be a huge barrier to kids’ ability to access an array of positive opportunities and resources.

Another statistic they shared: “Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young Hoosiers between the ages of 15 and 24 since 2009. In a national survey that included 43 states, Indiana had the nation’s highest rate of students who have contemplated suicide (19 percent) and the second highest rate of high school students who have attempted suicide (11 percent).”

From Our Place we learn that, as of 2012, more than 23 percent of all high school students (grades 9-12) had used some kind of tobacco product in the past month. The younger a person is when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to use it as an adult and the list of health risks associated with tobacco is nearly endless.

Also, alcohol consumption by minors is a significant risk factor for youth and Floyd County statistics run far above the average. In 2012, 10th grade use in Floyd County was 37.2 percent; state 30.3 percent; national 30.4 percent. Twenty-four percent of those students report binge drinking in the past two weeks, where the state is only 18.7 and nationally only 17.5.

Our own Youth Count survey showed that nearly 25 percent of six through 12th grade students reported “once or more” to the question “How many times in the last two years have you been the victim of physical violence where someone caused you physical pain or injury?” and 50 percent of students report they do not “feel safe at home, school and in the neighborhood.”

Do these statistics make you uncomfortable? I hope so because these conditions are not acceptable. We have many excellent programs to help address issues that impact teens. These organizations cannot do it alone. Each of us have gifts we can offer to support youth.

Research shows that young people who perceive that adults in the community value young people are more likely to grow up healthy, exhibit leadership, value diversity and succeed in school — so we build relationships with youth, we model positive attitudes, we support youth programs, and very deliberately ensure that we consider how our individual actions and our communities’ actions have a positive impact on youth.

— If you wish to learn more about Brandon’s House, visit brandonshousein.com; for Our Place visit ourplaceinc.org. Learn more about helping youth at youthcount.com or by contacting Youth Count at barbara@youthcount.com or 812-923-1160.

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