Utah teens continue struggling with mental health, vaping on the rise

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FILE – In this Sept. 2, 2021, file photo, children sit in a classroom at school in Strasbourg, eastern France. Children across Europe are going back to school, with hopes of a return to normality after 18 months of pandemic disruption and fears of a new surge in infections from the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jean-François Badias, File)

(ABC4) – As the pandemic affected lives across the state, a biennial report surveyed teens from grades 6-12, taking a look at their overall health when it comes to negative triggers.

The Utah Prevention Needs Assessment Survey is part of the Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) Statewide Survey. The survey aims to measure adolescent substance use, anti-social behavior, and the risk and protective factors that can predict these adolescent problem behaviors. 

Over 71,000 students were surveyed, throughout 40 school districts and 20 charter schools across the state. Additional factors the survey targeted included mental health, suicide, gang involvement, academic issues, health and fitness, and other prevention-related topics.

“School closures and social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic directly impacted students’ academic and mental well-being,” the report says. “Many students lost access to support services that were available at school and are experiencing uncertainty, loneliness, and isolation. Their mental health is put at risk.”

When looking at Utah teens in 2021, most students surveyed displayed “moderate depressive symptoms” as opposed to high or no symptoms. 

Vaping remains the most popular form of substance abuse, with the majority of teens preferring vape products over traditional cigarettes and tobacco. Surprisingly most teens reported they didn’t own vape products but instead borrowed (or bummed) them from somebody else.

The most common form of bullying teens experienced was being threatened or harassed online through the internet, e-mail, or cell phone. This year’s online harassment statistics have increased when compared to the last two years.

When looking at the safety of school campuses, students reported feeling most unsafe in bathrooms and parking lots, while overwhelmingly feeling the safest inside a classroom. Addressing concerns about school and peer environment, most teens were worried about the possibility of suicide by a student followed by the dangers of students using alcohol.

To see the full study and detailed statistics, click here. To see the report breakdown by county, click here.

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