Health officials study teenagers' risky behaviors

By Ashley Hading, WJXT reporter, with Patrick Donges and Melissa Ross of WJCT

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Since 2009, more kids in Duval County's middle and high schools say they've been the victims of bullying and more local children say they have considered or attempted suicide.

Those are just some of the revelations in the Duval County Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The report, which analyzes surveys of risk behaviors and health habits of more than 4,800 middle school students and more than 3,500 high school student, was unveiled at WJCT studios Thursday morning.

Reports of bullying among middle school students are up almost 20 percent. The numbers increased to a smaller degree for middle school kids. 

Nearly one quarter of Duval County middle school kids surveyed reported they have seriously thought about suicide, and 17 percent of high school kids surveyed considered killing themselves.  Eleven percent reported they have attempted suicide.

The study also found big declines in students fighting, alcohol and tobacco use and sexual activity.

For high schoolers, 32.6 percent of those surveyed said they currently use alcohol, down from 38.8 percent in 2009 and 35.6 percent in 2011. About 30 percent of high school students also reported being sexually active, down from 37 and 36 percent in 2009 and 2011 respectively.

The surveys are part of a larger effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get detailed information about youth health behaviors.

Details from DCHD Youth Risky Behavior Survey:

Violence, suicide, safety behaviors:  MIDDLE SCHOOL | HIGH SCHOOL
Physical activity, dietary behaviors:  MIDDLE SCHOOL | HIGH SCHOOL

The director of the Duval County Health Department said the information should be used as a call to action to help the next generation.

"If we can as a community begin to mentor, not just the young folks, but really help parents stand up and get the support they need, that's really where we can begin to move the needle a little bit," said Dr. Kelli Wells, director of the Duval County Health Department.

School officials also encourage kids to speak up to a counselor or teacher if they are being bullied. Duval County schools have also a set up a bullying prevention hotline: 904-390-CALL (2255).

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