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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Survey shows that while substance use declined, mental health concerns persist in Washington teens

March 22, 2022 Updated Tue., March 22, 2022 at 8:50 p.m.

Washington teens continue to struggle with mental health, but substance use has declined among teens in the past few years, a statewide survey conducted by several agencies found.

State agencies on Tuesday published the new Healthy Youth Survey, which compiles data from sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade youth statewide in Washington to gauge teen behavior, substance use and overall health every two years.

The pandemic delayed the survey by an additional year. The last time the survey was conducted was in 2018.

More than 200,000 students participated in the 2021 surveys, distributed through school districts statewide. The data can be separated by educational service district and county. More than 2,500 Spokane County 10th-graders participated in the survey.

Since 2018, fewer teens in Washington reported using substances like alcohol, marijuana and tobacco.

Many teens were stressed, anxious and reported feeling hopeless in 2021, however.

Of the more than 9,000 10th-graders surveyed, 38% reported feeling sad and hopeless in the last year, so much so they stopped doing their usual activities, and 20% of respondents considered attempting suicide. In Spokane County, 40% of 10th-graders surveyed felt sad or hopeless in the past year, and 22% considered attempting suicide.

Even more 12th-graders reported feeling sad or hopeless, with 45% of that group saying they felt that way in the past year.

Well over half of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders reported feeling anxious or nervous in the past two weeks when they were surveyed.

The survey highlights what service providers have been experiencing since the pandemic began: More children and teens are in need of mental health resources and services in the state.

State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah called these reports “worrisome” in a news release.

“Mental health is a part of our children’s overall health and well-being,” Shah said. “It is imperative that we all continue to work together to fully support the whole child by providing information and access to behavioral health resources to youth and the trusted adults in their lives.”

Student participation in the survey is anonymous and voluntary.

“Being a teenager these days can be difficult. Not many people are asking how we are really doing and what they can do to help,” one survey participant wrote.

To find mental health resources for you or your family, the Department of Health has compiled a list of resources for families.

The 24-hour suicide prevention lifeline is (800) 273-8255.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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