Decreasing depressive episodes and suicide attempts and completion are national goals in the HealthyPeople2020 plan and in the Health & Human Services Strategic Plan (https://www.hhs.gov/).
In Washington state, suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens 15 to 19 years old. According to the Washington Healthy Youth Survey (2018), 32% of eighth graders, 40% of 10th graders, and 41% of 12th graders felt so sad or hopeless for 2 weeks or more that they stopped doing their usual activities. 16% of 8th graders, 18% of 10th graders, and 18% of 12th graders reported making a suicide plan. (Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, https://www.k12.wa.us/ ).
Results from the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey show that youth mental health outcomes have gotten worse. From 2008 to 2018, an overall increase of 33% of youth reported feeling hopeless, an increase of 35% of youth reported suicidal thoughts and an increase of 39% of youth reported having a suicide plan ( http://www.askhys.net/).
In Whatcom County, WA, Whatcom Family & Community Network (WFCN), through programming of Whatcom Prevention Coalition (WPS) shared lived experience of addressing and promoting youth mental wellbeing and suicide prevention. The M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. (Making a Difference – Helping Other People Everywhere) Youth Suicide Prevention program, a partnership with WFCN, Bellingham Public Schools, Whatcom County Health Department and WPC was created with youth to address youth mental wellbeing through peer to peer interaction. Across nine years, M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. has developed curriculum for middle and high school youth and community audiences. In our work, we believe that “Connection Saves Lives!” (www.madhope.org).
In 2019, WPC was selected as one of five national pilot sites for the National Council on Behavioral Health’s (NCBH) Connected! Project. Connected! Focuses on youth engagement to address youth mental wellbeing peer to peer. Three Whatcom County young adults serve at national youth influencers as WFCN works to better engage youth in breaking down stigma, and providing resources and supports, especially for underserved youth who identify with four target populations: Rural youth, Native American youth, LQBTQ+ Youth and Hispanic/Latina/o/x youth.
The WPC/ M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. and Connected Team share about the county-wide efforts: A series of community conversations on youth mental health issues; a trusted adult campaign; new partnerships to grow community capacity and find solutions to the need for mental wellbeing supports as well as innovative youth-led efforts in school and community settings that open up new opportunities for resilience and hope for youth.
In this session, they share the journey, so far, to increase resilience and hope for youth and families on mental wellbeing and to balance this national concern with hope.
Wil Henkel, one of three Connected! Project National Youth Influencers with the NCBH at the WFCN pilot site, is freshmen at Western Washington University hoping to earn a degree in psychology at Fairhaven College. He is a M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. trainer and consultant for Bellingham Public Schools for a peer-centered outreach/peer-centered support program that was innovated by himself and fellow student and M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. volunteer during their senior year at Sehome High School. Wil is a youth advocate for mental wellbeing and youth engagement.
Lisa Moulds, M.A. WFCN, Prevention Program Manager, co-chairs the Whatcom Prevention Coalition and manages the M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. Youth Suicide Prevention partnership. Lisa’s relationship based approach to building resilience in community stems from expertise in developing community partnerships between University staff, students and Whatcom County social services and school district as director of WWU’s Center for Service Learning for 10 years. Prior to joining WFCN in 2017, she worked in the fields of domestic violence prevention, community information and assistance, and as a program manager within Woodring College of Education at WWU. Lisa is mother to Jamie, a freshmen at Arizona State University, who recently made the life transition from home to college, but now back to home–studying online thanks to COVID-19.
Danielle Humphreys, Youth Suicide and Mental Wellbeing Specialist is a recent addition to the WFCN/ M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. team. Danielle joined the M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. in October 2019 and brings a background in working with diverse youth in faith-based and environmental service settings. Danielle is a trainer and program manager and understands the protective factors associated with increasing wellbeing in the lives of youth. She is mother to three elementary aged school aged children, adapting to being at home for school for the remainder of the school year.
Kristi Slette, M.Ed, is Executive Director at Whatcom Family & Community Network, a community capacity building nonprofit focused on promoting wellbeing and convening & supporting neighborhoods and communities to build their capacity so children, youth and families thrive. Kristi is a leader and educator in the local social services field for the past 25 years. She’s served WFCN since late 2015. She is a trainer on NEARH (Neurobiology, Epigenetics, Adverse and Positive Childhood Experiences, Resilience and Hope) Sciences. She taught Human Services at WWU for 15 years, served as director of training with Washington Campus Compact; director of youth and volunteer services with the Mt. Baker Chapter of the American Red Cross, director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer program with Whatcom Volunteer Center and brings expertise in leveraging relationships and resources to improve capacity toward solving complex community problems. Kristi is mom to two children, ages 14 and 16, who feel the stress of not being able to be with friends, miss playing the sports they love and are figuring out how to self-motivate for academics when technology offers more enticing content and connection.
Nationally Known Eco-Hip Hop Artists Visit to Connect Food & Wellness Issues
Nationally-recognized eco-hip hop artist and food activist DJ Cavem and his wife, lifestyle coach Alkemia, will be in Bellingham March 6 and 7 to lead a series of performances and discussions connecting healthy nutrition to wellbeing. These issues are important to all families and children, especially those living in food deserts, such as Birchwood Neighborhood.
On March 6, DJ Cavem and Alkemia will treat the entire community to a culinary hip-hop performance at Options High School’s auditorium from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Their presentation and performance will be on the importance of eating healthy to protect the human body and the environment. Earlier in the day, they hope to visit school and community gardens and learn about Bellingham School District’s Good Food Promise.
Thursday, March 7 they will perform for Shuksan Middle School students at a morning assembly. Afterwards they will be speaking on KUGS Radio and presenting at the Whatcom Prevention Coalition meeting, from 3 to 4 p.m. in the middle school’s library.
Families of 5th through 8th grade students who enroll in Shuksan Middle School are invited to a special culinary hip-hop performance from 6 to 7:15 p.m. at Shuksan Community Family Night. Come at 5 p.m. for a free community meal, and stay afterward for fun family activities like the Natural High Carnival, Dodgeball with Police and Firefighters, and a resource fair aimed at connecting healthy eating habits to prevention for physical and behavioral wellbeing. More than 20 community programs in the areas of nutrition, health and youth will provide learning activities, giveaways, food demos and resources. Free childcare is provided.
Shuksan Community Family Night aims to bridge the needs of students and their families with school and community resources on relevant issues and solutions. This year’s event aligns with Bellingham School’s Good Food Promise and the opening of the Central Kitchen, where fresh, healthy food will begin to replace frozen, processed breakfast and lunch items in schools across the district. The hope is to increase student choices and desire for healthy foods with increased awareness of how nutrition impacts their bodies and the environment.
“Adolescent brains are growing. It is a critical time of development for healthy habits. Research tells us there are connections between how young minds and bodies are fueled and their immediate and long-term mental and physical health. Choosing foods, snacks, and beverages with high sugar, high caffeine and other chemicals links to social-emotional wellbeing and to risk for substance use later in life”, explains Lisa Moulds, Whatcom Prevention Coalition coordinator. “Adolescence is a time of risk taking, but there are healthy risk taking options that benefit our young people. This event is about expanding awareness and options!”
These issues disproportionately affect families whose children enroll at Shuksan Middle School as Birchwood neighborhood is in a food desert. This means a large portion of the neighborhood is more than a mile away from a full service grocery that provides fresh food options. Families in the area have a harder time accessing healthy, affordable food.
The event is co-organized by a number of local groups including Whatcom Family Community Network, Bellingham School District and Communities In Schools.
Recognizing that food insecurity is a social determinant of health, PeaceHealth is the primary event sponsor. Significant contributions also come from the Whatcom County Health Department and the Whatcom Prevention Coalition.
DJ Cavem is considered the father of eco hip-hop, a subgenera of hip hop that aims to merge the musical style with environmentalism. He’s released multiple albums and has shared the stage with people like Nick Jonas and The Black Eyed Peas. He’s also done extensive work to promote healthy eating among youth. He has been featured in Oprah Magazine, the Huffington Post, on the Rachael Ray Show and more.
Photo Credit: New DJ Cavem Alkemia Earth Sprout That Life by DJ CaveM Photos and Pictures
Most Washington teens reject alcohol and other drugs
Healthy Youth Survey explores attitudes and behaviors of middle and high school students
Contact: Kelly Stowe • Department of Social and Health Services • 360-902-7739 • Kelly.Stowe@dshs.wa.gov
OLYMPIA-Results for the 2016 Washington Healthy Youth Survey (HYS) show that teen rates of substance use in our state have remained mostly unchanged since the last survey was taken in 2014, and that most teens avoid alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and other drugs.
“The health, safety and economic impacts of substance use disorders affect many individuals, families and communities in our state, and a wide range of organizations at all levels are partnering to prevent them,” said Governor Jay Inslee. “A big thank you goes out to all of the students who took time out of their busy school days to take the Healthy Youth Survey. This survey provides crucial information on adolescent health, behaviors and perceptions. It helps us in making the right decisions to ensure that the next generation is the Healthiest Next Generation.”
The HYS is taken every two years by students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12, who voluntarily answer a wide variety of questions about their health behaviors. In the fall of 2016, over 230,000 students in over 1,000 schools from 236 school districts in all 39 counties took part. The survey provides state and community organizations with needed information about which teen health issues to focus on.
One of the concerning changes since the last survey is that the percentage of 8th graders who believe there is great risk in using marijuana has declined from 53 to 48 percent. Since marijuana is now more visible in communities with advertising and retail stores, state and community organizations and schools have increased education and prevention efforts to discourage underage use. These efforts may be helping to prevent an increase in use, with 17 percent of 10th graders reporting use in the past month, which has not changed since 2014.
Preventing underage drinking has long been a statewide priority, and alcohol use by 10th graders has dropped by 12 percentage points since 2006. However, the number of students who use alcohol has not changed since 2014. In 2016, one out of five 10th graders (a total of about 16,737 students) drank alcohol in the past month. Alcohol plays a significant role in all three leading causes of death among youth: injuries, suicides and homicides.
The number of teens who said they drove a car after using alcohol or marijuana is cause for alarm. More than half (51 percent) of the 12th graders who reported marijuana use in the past 30 days said they had driven within three hours of using marijuana.
E-cigarette/vapor product use significantly dropped from 2014 to 2016, but remains a concern because of its prevalence and association with other tobacco and substance use. E-cigarette use in the past month among 10th graders dropped from 18 percent in 2014 to 13 percent in 2016. Over twice as many 10th graders reported vaping (13 percent) as smoking cigarettes (6 percent), and 65 percent of 10th graders who vaped reported using marijuana.
“Growing up is difficult. The issues facing our youth today are big and have serious life consequences. Parents, teachers and agencies all help guide youth when facing these challenges” said Pat Lashway, Acting Secretary for DSHS. “This information will help the ’helpers’ drive home the true impact of drugs on the young developing brains before it’s too late.” Because the teen brain is still developing, alcohol and other drug use can cause more severe and permanent damage compared to those who start using at age 21 and older. National data identifies the risks such as poor grades and not graduating, due to problems with memory and concentration; serious injuries and death from driving under the influence; unwanted and/or unplanned sexual activity; addiction; depression and anxiety with long-term use.
Parents and guardians are the number one influence on children’s decisions about alcohol and other drugs. All adults can help teens avoid the negative consequences of substance use by talking with them early and often about the risks, locking up any alcohol, marijuana or prescription drugs in the home, reminding them that most of their peers are making healthy choices, and having clear rules and consequences to discourage use. Visit StartTalkingNow.org for proven tips on how to talk, monitor and bond with teens. For more information about the survey, including other results and fact sheets, visit the HYS website.
Washington state is recognized nationally as a leader in supporting evidence-based prevention practices and collaborating with community-based prevention organizations. Survey results for mental health, nutrition, physical activity and school engagement will be analyzed and released over the next few months.
The survey is a collaborative effort between DSHS and the Department of Health (DOH), the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB). The results provide state and local organizations with needed information to plan, implement and evaluate publicly funded programs.