Vaping And Depression Both On The Rise Amongst Utah's Youth

Nov 5, 2018

One image from the 2017 Utah Adolescent Health Report. The 74 page report was released by the Utah Department of Health
Credit Utah Department of Health

The Utah Department of Health recently released the 2017 Utah Adolescent Health Report. KPCW spoke with Summit County Health Department to gain insight from the report.

The 2017 Utah Adolescent Health Report was released in October and looks at the wellbeing of youth in the state. Summit County Mental Health Director Aaron Newman points out that Summit County’s numbers had some variation from the state.

“When you go back and look at the individual districts in those same questions that show there were increases across the state we actually saw a decrease in a lot of those areas.” Newman explained,
“Everything from our drug use, our alcohol use, have you had depressive symptoms in the past 30 days? We saw a decrease. We do still have some areas though where we are above the state average. When we look at depressive symptoms they’re about 72% (statewide). We’ve come down to 74% and 77% for North Summit and South Summit but Park City school district is at 72% which is right with the state average. We did see a slight uptick though for Park City so we’re looking into what’s going on with that. One possible reason could be that we just have greater awareness. Students are more likely to report that I have had a depressive state in the past 30 days and they’re recognizing what those states could be.”

Newman says that they’re working to help students deal with feelings of hopelessness and depression.

“The schools are working on several different programs.” Newman said, “One that is coming out is the guiding good choices program. It’s designed to help parents identify what are those warning signs? What are those ways that they can get more actively engaged in addressing these issues? When we look at hopelessness it’s a tough thing to do especially with youth. I hear from parents all the time, I can’t tell if it truly is depression or they’re just upset because of their age. One of those things we need to do is change that mindset. There’s this phrase it’s better that they’re mad at you than dead with you. So, I encourage all parents anytime you see that don’t worry about offending them. Feelings come back, everything changes but if you don’t make that decision the feelings that you’ll be dealing with over the next several years is not worth it.”

The report saw significant increases from 2013 to 2017 in youth reporting feeling sad or hopeless. That jumped from 20.8% to 27.3% percent. Suicide Ideation jumped from 14.1% to 18.1% and making a suicide attempt went from 6.2% to 7.7%.

“One though, that is worth pointing out where we are statistically higher is in terms of how many of our students are receiving treatment for mental health disorders.” Newman continued, “The state averages about 43% whereas for up here in Park City we’re at 53%. Unfortunately, South Summit didn’t statistically have enough people respond to that question to have data but then 22% from North Summit which is below. Again, part of that is we’re having the conversations, we’re aware of what’s going on. One other thing with this report that I like to point out that we need to be cautious with; not only the bad numbers that we have but also the good numbers. 77% of the respondents for Summit County we’re sixth and eighth graders. So, we were missing the 10th and 12th graders with solid data who are going to be much more aware of how am I feeling today? Is this really a suicidal ideation? And be able to accurately report those numbers.”

On Friday, November 5th a Treasure Mountain student was taken to the hospital after passing out due vaping a product that contained THC. Although cigarette smoking is down significantly, the study saw that Utah adolescents who use a vape product or e-cigarette nearly doubled from 5.8% to 11.1% statewide. In Park City vape use is even higher.

“Park City School District in 2017 reported 20% of their students engaged in e-cigarettes of some form.” Newman explained, “We need parents to get actively engaged and involved. Some of these, called Juuls, look a lot like a thumb drive. When they get home, they can just put it in their computer and if you were to walk by you wouldn’t give it a second look. Anything that you can make liquid form you can put into these. It’s something to be aware of. I would encourage anyone that would like more information to contact the Health Department, either Alyssa Mitchell or Shelley Worley. They do a lot of the training and prevention on our e-cigarette program.”