Nearly three in 10 Rhode Island students reported feeling sad in the past 30 days, with 20% of middle schoolers and 22% of high schoolers saying they feel hopeless about the future, according to the fourth edition of the Rhode Island Student Survey. (Getty image)
Findings from a new survey from the state’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) show a small, but significant number of Rhode Island’s youth abuse some form of substance and that many have considered ending their own lives.
According to the fourth edition of the Rhode Island Student Survey, 3% of teens reported using inhalants, 2% used heroin, 2% abused prescription drugs, and 1% used tranquilizers.
The survey also found that 16% of middle schoolers have considered attempting suicide — a 3% increase from 2018.
Nearly three in 10 students also reported feeling sad in the past 30 days, with 20% of middle schoolers and 22% of high schoolers saying they feel hopeless about the future.
“Substance use by youth is always a concern, which is why prevention efforts are so important,” BHDDH Director Richard Charest said in a statement. “We also need to be aware of the overall mental and emotional wellbeing of young people and the factors that can affect their behavioral health.”
The latest survey was taken by 20,411 Rhode Island middle and high school students from 23 school districts. Previous surveys were administered in 2016, 2018, and 2020.
Surveys ask teens about substance use, bullying, depression, violence, and thoughts of suicide. The goal, BHDDH said, is to identify areas of need, as well as successful prevention efforts that can be built upon.
“These results are an important reminder of the need for adults to be involved and to be mindful of the circumstances and challenges facing our youth,” Charest said.
On a positive note, reports of using marijuana, alcohol and electronic tobacco were all down compared to 2020, when pandemic shutdowns closed schools and limited social gatherings.
“We know, from a big-picture perspective, what the challenges facing our youth are, but the survey helps us to focus our efforts as we work with our regional prevention coalitions and others to address any needs they see on the front line,” said Thomas Martin, director of BHDDH’s Division of Behavioral Health.
“The results also help us to align our message of prevention with current trends and respond in a way that will help.”
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