Study: Adolescent life carries perils 

Alcohol, drugs, violence and even sex are a part of the day-to-day lives of many of the county’s young people, according to a county report released Tuesday.

While one or two of these temptations may not surprise parents, a survey of about 2,000 county high school students, combined with California Health Kids data, indicates more and more students face these and other hurdles even in their freshman high school year.

Violence was a major concern for many high school students surveyed in the Adolescent Report 2007, the first such local survey produced by the county Youth Commission. Of those surveyed, 77 percent called for more prevention education and 74 percent for more gang prevention programs.

A majority, 71 percent, reported that their close friends drink. An overwhelming 89 percent of students surveyed supported wider sex education in schools, according to the report.

An estimated 59 percent indicated that schools should provide mental health services, with 34 percent saying that they had experienced suicidal thoughts, according to the report.

In today’s world, waiting to have an uncomfortable conversation with your child could put them at risk, health experts said Tuesday. "By the time they get to middle school, it’s right there in their face," according to Anne Hipskind, program coordinator for the nonprofit Youth and Family Enrichments Services. Hipskind is the adult staffer for the county Youth Commission.

San Mateo County Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow suggested parents begin talking with their children in age-appropriate ways as early as elementary school about choices related to drugs, sex and other subjects.

While some prevention programs are already in place, there is often a disconnect between county administrators and young people who have insight into how best to reach their peers, said Youth Commission Chairwoman Minn Oh, an 18-year-old senior at Mills High in Millbrae.

"A lot of times I think adults think we can’t make a difference," Oh said.

For example, getting to health clinics where teens can seek confidential health advice is problematic for high school students who don’t have transportation, Oh said.

In response to the report, county supervisors Tuesday directed county department heads from health, social services and other departments to return within 90 days with recommendations for next steps, following meetings with the Youth Commission to discuss the survey’s findings.

Alcohol and other drugs

» 71% reported that their close friends drink

Violence

» 77% say that youth need education about violence prevention

» 74% say that youth need education about gang violence prevention

Sex

» 67% say they receive sexual information from their friends

» 52% say they receive sexual information from their parents

Self Harm

» 59% say that schools should provide mental health services

» 34% say they have had suicidal thoughts

» 22% say they have engaged in self-harm

Discrimination

»43% report that they feel discriminated against because of their race or culture

» 21% say they feel discriminated against by police

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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