EDITORIAL: Keeping our eyes on Squamish youth | Squamish Chief

EDITORIAL: Keeping our eyes on Squamish youth

With so much COVID-19 news, it is easy to overlook other things that are happening that deserve our collective attention.

On March 30, the McCreary Centre Society published research that shows more young people in our region vape than in other areas of the province.

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The 2018 BC Adolescent Health Survey was completed by the province’s Grade 7 to 12 students. Squamish is included in the North Shore/Coast Garibaldi region.

Survey results provide important information for teens, parents and those who set policy in the Sea to Sky.

North Shore/Coast Garibaldi youth were more likely than their peers in B.C. to have vaped in the past month (34% versus 27% provincially).

“Over a third of North Shore/Coast Garibaldi youth had vaped in the past month, which was higher than we saw across the province and much higher than in communities like Vancouver and Richmond where rates are well below 20%,” said McCreary’s executive director Annie Smith in a release with the findings. “What is particularly worrying is that while vaping was originally marketed as a smoking cessation tool, more than one in five local youth who had never smoked tobacco were vaping.”

Locally, 22% of those vapers had never smoked tobacco.

Among students who had smoked cigarettes, 75% had also vaped in the past month.

As an aside, this circles back to COVID-19 in that the chief medical officer for the American Lung Association has said that vaping and smoking can weaken a person’s ability to recover from COVID-19.

The McCreary study also showed an increasing number of young people in the Sea to Sky struggle with mental health and with getting help for it.

So-called “rural youth,” which Sea to Sky students are considered, were more likely than urban youth (meaning those in North and West Vancouver) to have not accessed mental health help they needed (22% compared to 18% provincially); and to have missed out because they did not know where to go for help or because they lacked transportation.

Mental health was the most common issue youth in our region wanted to know more about.

The report wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. Most local youth felt safe in their school, and connected to their community, with the vast majority — 70% — saying they had at least one adult who cared about them.

Corridor students were more likely than those across B.C. to participate weekly in organized sports (63% compared to 52%), informal sports (58% compared to 52%), and extreme sports (13% versus 9%).

Also, 38% of Indigenous youth could speak at least a few words of an Indigenous language, versus 28% provincially, including 7% who could hold a conversation or were fluent.

Interesting stuff.

If COVID-19 has given us anything of value, it is more time with our kids, so perhaps this study can be a conversation starter for adults and an opportunity for teens to be heard.

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