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Local survey reveals alarming statistics for Oneida County students

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - A recent survey shows Oneida county students' depression and ideas of suicide have risen above national levels, while bullying has decreased.

The 2011 Teen Assessment Project (TAP) is based on anonymous and voluntary surveys of seventh, ninth and eleventh grade students from eleven districts plus Notre Dame High School and Middle Settlement Academy.

In cooperation with Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES, Herkimer-Oneida Counties Comprehensive Planning Program reviews the findings from student surveys and looks at trends using results from the three previous TAP Surveys in 1999, 2003 and 2007 then compares local findings with national survey results.

Some key findings of the study include that alcohol use, particularly tobacco use, dropped between 1999 and 2007, but since 2007 the number of teens drinking and smoking has leveled off. However, the percentage of teens using alcohol or tobacco locally continues to be lower than national levels.

It also shows that since 2003 fewer youth reported they felt constantly bullied, fewer have been in a fight, and fewer said gang activities were a problem in their community.

One in four (25%) respondents also reported they had sent a nude or semi-nude picture of themselves to someone electronically, a much higher rate than found in a recent national survey.

Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES and Herkimer-Oneida Counties Comprehensive Planning Program intend for the TAP Report to help schools, other agencies and parents identify and focus on areas of need for youth in the community.

"What we like to do is kind of just keep tabs on how our young people are doing, how they're feeling about things, what their concerns are and other issues so we can think about these as we think about services and programs in the schools," says Herkimer-Oneida Counties Comprehensive Planning Program's Principal Planner Chip Bassett.

The survey also reported that depression rates and ideas of suicide decreased in 2003 and 2007, but rose in 2011, bringing them above national levels.

"One of the problems when looking at any statistic, social statistics or educational statistics, is there are so many variables involved," says Utica College Educational Administration Professor Dr. Bill Gokey. "Is it economy, is it stress at home because of the economy, or is it things at school that are making students more depressed?"

As an education professor Dr.Gokey says teachers and administrators need to now dig deeper into what is raising local students' depression rates and make sure resources are there to help students. However, he fears tight school budgets may make this difficult.

"I think one of the issues now that may need some further examination is have some of the budget cuts to school staff, social service agencies and other agencies that deal with people with mental health conditions or social conditions, has that had any impact," says Dr. Gokey. "Are there fewer people available to help students?"

Dr. Gockey says it can't just be teachers tackling the issues presented in the TAP survey but parents, schools and the community need to come together to address the concerns.

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