Pam Dudding-Burch
Contributing writer

It has been said that it takes a whole community to raise a child. Much wisdom comes from that statement of old. Today’s statistics in schools seem to project that there may be less ‘community’ than it used to be to help the youth.

With ongoing expanded technical knowledge and easy availability of games, pictures, music and more, students seem to rely on a little box they can individually hold in their hands for companionship, enjoyment, excitement and even emotional outbursts instead of a best friend, parent or outside game.

At least bi-annually, the Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare in Roanoke assists in an annual survey which asks questions related to core measures such as; alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, vaping, prescription drugs, over the counter (OTC) and other drugs.

Additional questions asked include; violence-related activities, mental health, sexual behaviors, personal safety and health and social behaviors. An example of a question asked is: “How much do you think people risk harming themselves (physically or in other ways) if they use marijuana once or twice a week?” The questions vary from middle school to high school.

The Craig County Youth Risk Behavior Survey was conducted by the Craig Prevention Planning Team (CPPT) and presented by J.D. Carlin, “Prevention Specialist” from Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare in Roanoke. CPPT is a coalition of citizens, parents, professionals and youth working together to promote healthy development of youth in Craig County.

These surveys are done without students writing their names on them or any way of tracking an individual. “Our goal is to get an overall perspective of what the students are feeling, living and experiencing in their individual lives,” Carlin, who has been working with CCPS for several years, said. Focus areas are Tobacco, depression, suicide and home and school emotions.

The following are the some of the statistics taken from this survey.

30-Day Use (Cigarettes)- Percentage of Students Who Smoked Cigarettes on 1 or More of the Past 30 Days 2011 2013 2015 2017

Craig Co. MS 5.4percent 6.0percent 6.5percent 3.8percent

Craig Co. HS 18.8percent 25.2percent 24.8percent 21.5percent

National HS 18.1percent 15.7percent 10.8percent N/A

30-Day Use (Smokeless Tobacco) – Percentage of Students Who Used Chewing Tobacco, Dip, or Snuff in the Past 30 Days

2011 2013 2015 2017

Craig Co. MS 8.6percent 6.8percent 9.4percent 5.0percent

Craig Co. HS 11.5percent 21.1percent 20.6percent 16.7percent

National HS 7.7percent 8.8percent 7.3percent N/A

30-Day Use (Alcohol) – Percentage of Students Who Had At Least 1 Drink of Alcohol in the Past Alcohol 30 Days

2011 2013 2015 2017

Craig Co. MS 20.2percent 17.0percent 21.2percent 11.9percent

Craig Co. HS 31.5percent 39.8percent 42.1percent 33.0percent

National HS 38.7percent 34.9percent 32.8percent N/A

30-Day Use (Alcohol – Binge) – Percentage of Students Who Had 5 or More Drinks of Alcohol in a Row At Least Once in the Past 30 Days

2011 2013 2015 2017

Craig Co. MS 4.7percent 7.6percent 12.5percent 2.0percent

Craig Co. HS 20.0percent 25.2percent 27.5percent 22.2percent

National HS 21.9percent 20.8percent 17.7percent N/A

30-Day Use (Marijuana) – Percentage of Students Who Used Marijuana or Hash At Least Once in the Past 30 Days

2011 2013 2015 2017

Craig Co. MS 4.7percent 12.0percent 7.0percent 7.4percent

Craig Co. HS 12.4percent 13.7percent 13.9percent 19.6percent

National HS 23.1percent 23.4percent 21.7percent N/A

30-Day Use (Electronic Vapor) – Percentage of Students Who Used an Electronic Vapor Product in the Past 30 Days

2015 2017

Craig Co. MS 23.6percent 9.4percent

Craig Co. HS 30.9percent 28.7percent

National HS 24.1percent N/A

Depression & Suicide – Percentage of Students Who, During the Past 12 Months, Felt so Sad or Hopeless Almost Every day for 2 Weeks or More in a Row, They Stopped Doing Some Usual Activities

2011 2013 2015 2017

Craig Co. MS 20.2percent 23.3percent 23.1percent 28.0percent

Craig Co. HS 18.9percent 23.0percent 27.7percent 34.8percent

National HS 28.5percent 27.1percent 29.9percent N/A

Depression & Suicide- Percentage of Students Who, During the Past 12 Months, Made a Plan About How They Would Attempt Suicide

2011 2013 2015 2017

Craig Co. MS 10.2percent 14.9percent 15.4percent 18.5percent

Craig Co. HS 14.6percent 19.8percent 19.7percent 18.9percent

National HS 12.8percent 13.6percent 14.6percent N/A

Depression & Suicide – Percentage of Students Who, During the Past 12 Months, Actually Attempted Suicide

2011 2013 2015 2017

Craig Co. MS 4.8percent 12.9percent 11.1percent 9.6percent

Craig Co. HS 7.3percent 18.6percent 15.9percent 13.3percent

National HS 7.8percent 8.0percent 8.6percent N/A

Student Feelings of Support/Recognition- Percentage of Students Who Agree That Their Parents or School Lets Them Know When They Have Done Something Well.

2011 2013 2015 2017

Craig Co. MS 33.6percent 54.5percent 47.5percent 31.5percent

Craig Co. HS 39.3percent 47.3percent 44.9percent 35.1percent

Student Feelings of Support/Recognition – Percentage of Students Who Agree That There Are People in Their Community That Encourage Them To Do Their Best

2011 2013 2015 2017

Craig Co. MS 82.5percent 77.8percent 88.4percent 71.6percent

Craig Co. HS 85.8percent 78.7percent 78.1percent 75.3percent

Though overall statistics show that there have been small decreases in most categories, the percentage is still a sad window of the hearts of Craig County students.

“CCPS does a very good job with limited resources to provide education to their students in the area of ATOD prevention,” Carlin shared. “The school also has invested in providing Mental Health First Aid to all Middle and High School staff just this past school year.”

A growing concern is the increase of marijuana and hash usage. Though there are some who side with the approval of this illegal drug use, statistics continue to show that it’s use makes a negative effect on the student’s school and social life.

Some short term side effects include; short term memory problems, severe anxiety including fear that one is being watched or followed (paranoia), very strange behavior as seeing, hearing or smelling things that aren’t there, not being able to tell imagination from reality (psychosis), panic, hallucinations, loss of sense of personal identity, lowered reaction time, increased heart rate, problems with coordination, sexual problems (for males), and is up to seven times more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections than non-users (for females).

Long term effects can be; declined in IQ (up to eight points if prolonged use started in adolescent age), poor school performance and higher chance of dropping out, impaired thinking and ability to learn and perform complex tasks, lower life satisfaction, addiction, potential development of opiate abuse, relationship problems (intimate partner violence), antisocial behavior including stealing and lying and financial difficulties.

“All of the statistic concerns are COMMUNITY challenges,” Carlin shared. “It cannot fall on any one part of the community to make a difference, as it will take the entire Craig County community to see positive change.”

There are few things more devastating than a teen committing suicide. Unless, it’s a teen who has become addicted to drugs and is killing themselves slowly, mentally, physically and emotionally.

CPPT believes that, as a leader in seeing this community change take place, they have decided to focus on student feelings of support, recognition and encouragement as a way to hopefully contribute to lowering student rates of depression, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

“CPPT will look to work with partners such as CCPS, The New Castle Record, area Churches and local businesses to create positive change for the youth of Craig County as we must make youth feel proud to be from Craig County and supported by all of the adults in Craig County that are part of their lives,” Carlin shared.

The CPPT brochure has a wealth of information and asks; “What Helps Our Youth Make Good Decisions?” It answers with: Parents Having Clear Rules About Prohibiting Use, Parental and Peer Disapproval, Increasing the Risk of Harm Youth Perceive Associated with Use, Education, Alternative Alcohol & Drug Free Activities and Community Support.

CPPT is also going a step further, and will be working with the local New Castle Record in placing a monthly column on parenting in the paper. “We will have many related topics we feel will benefits parents and the community,” Carlin said. “Our focus is to decrease these numbers so that our kids in Craig County no longer are dependent on outside stimuli to ease their pains.”

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