By Kate Anslinger
At Monday night’s school committee meeting CASA (Community Action for Safe Alternatives) shared updates on a recent Prevention Needs Assessment.
The survey, which was taken by students in grades 6-12, was executed to determine where the majority of action is needed among Winthrop’s youth.
Questions involving drug and alcohol usage, violence, bullying, sexual behavior, and mental health were included in the survey.
Out of 1,032 students enrolled at the high school/middle school, 805 participated in the survey, the majority of them being in grades 6-9. The topic that is receiving the greatest concern is mental health.
According to survey results, nearly 16 percent of students have seriously considered suicide. While the number has dropped slightly from the 2013/2014 school year, it is still higher than the state average. In addition, 25 percent of the students reported that they have felt sad and hopeless for a period of at least two weeks.
“Mental illness really stands out. What can we do to raise awareness?” said School Committee member Valentino Capobianco, who pointed out the fact that on average the United States has 30,000 suicides per year and 500,000 suicide attempts.
Over the last eight years CASA has worked closely with the police department, the Town and the school department, on a mission to prevent drug and alcohol use among teens. According to survey results, 55 percent of students have consumed alcohol. This number reflects a decline in the usage compared to previous years and it is below the state average, however; Winthrop is above the state average by 2 percent when it comes to binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks within a couple of hours.
As for marijuana usage, the survey reflected that Winthrop students have dropped below the state average. Usage peaked in 2011, however; it has significantly dropped since then, as 22 percent of students claim to currently be using the drug, whereas the state average is close to 25 percent.
Another segment of the survey was based on violence. Nearly 10 percent of students have claimed that they have been a victim of forced sexual involvement and the person that they were dating committed these actions. Over six percent of eighth graders and over 10 percent of seventh graders answered that they have been threatened with or injured by a weapon such as a gun, knife or club on school property.
The numbers for cyber bullying were fairly low, however; that could be due to the lack of cases reported. Bullying saw its largest amount amongst eight grade students and ninth graders followed closely behind.
“We are hoping to add a part-time adjustment counselor and there is a lot we can do as a community to work on risk factors,” said CASA Coalition Director, Amy Epstein. “CASA collaborates with the school district during wellness week and with the Wellness Club, but we want to incorporate more in the schools to support our students. It would be good to get more services in the building during school hours.”
There are several ways in which the community can get involved with these issues. CASA hosts the following groups every week, at its location on 18 Bartlett Road:
- CASA coalition meeting-last Monday of every month, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
- Winthrop Opiate Task Force-meets second Thursday of every month, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
- Caregiver Support Group-meets first and third Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
- Recovery Coach Resource Drop-in Night-Every Thursday, 5:00-8:00 p.m.
- Youth advisory board: Every Monday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.