News Release- SW Indiana Youth Report Less Substance Abuse

April 1, 2015 – Youth First, Inc. Releases Results of 2014 Southwest Indiana Youth Survey – The Southwest Indiana region appears to be making progress in preventing and reducing teen substance abuse, according to a report released today by Youth First, Inc. The latest Southwest Indiana Youth Survey shows teenagers are reporting lower substance abuse rates than the state and national averages in many categories.

View Survey Report:   Southwest Indiana Youth Survey Report 2014

“When Youth First started tracking similar data back in 1999, our region’s substance abuse rates were typically higher than the state and national averages, but parallel with the growth of Youth First’s prevention model over the last decade, we have seen declines,” said Parri O. Black, President & CEO of Youth First. “Fewer teens reported regularly using alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana in 2014 than teens in the last regional survey in 2009.”

The 2014 survey includes anonymous responses from over 6,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in the five counties where Youth First provides programs and services: Gibson, Pike, Posey, Vanderburgh, and Warrick.

In the spring of 2014, the Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC) at Indiana University collected data from over 130,000 youth statewide. In the report shared by Youth First, the state and regional results were compared with national data from Monitoring the Future, which tracks youth substance abuse across the country.

Southwest Indiana’s 8th graders reported significantly lower monthly alcohol (9.7%), binge drinking (7.8%), and monthly marijuana use (5.6%) than the state. However, the region’s 12th graders reported significantly higher monthly alcohol use (37.9%) and binge drinking rates (35.8%).

“Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are serious threats to the health, safety, and futures of our youth, families, and communities,” Black said. “Drugs and alcohol are the leading causes of crime among youth and major risk factors for teenage suicide and teenage pregnancy. Study after study shows students who are regular users are less likely to do well in school and less likely to graduate.”

For the first time, the Southwest Indiana Youth Survey also includes data about mental health concerns. Over 20% of the 6,000 students surveyed reported feeling sad or hopeless, which can be a risk factor for suicide. Over 15% of the 8th and 10th graders reported considering suicide.

“This is similar to or even lower than the state and national averages, but they are alarming statistics nonetheless,” Black said. “Clearly, we need to redouble our efforts to build hope and resiliency in our youth.”

Founded in Evansville, Indiana in 1998, Youth First, Inc. works to transform and strengthen the lives of young people and their families using a comprehensive model of prevention in partnership with communities, schools and other agencies. Most significantly, Youth First provides specially trained Master’s level social workers for 50 schools and hundreds of prevention programs for youth and families. Independent evaluations indicate that Youth First’s model is reducing risk factors and enhancing protective factors linked to substance abuse and other high risk behaviors.

“Most of our youth are not regularly using alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, but we still have plenty of work to do to help all young people reach their full potential,” Black said. “Our communities must be attentive, persistent, and collaborative over the long-haul, insisting on doing what really works to protect future generations from the ravages of substance abuse and other risky behaviors.”