facebook googleplus twitteryoutube
JOIN OUR EMAIL LIST VERMONT AFTERSCHOOL EVENTS

May’s Data Digest: Depression and Suicide

Posted on May 3rd, 2019 in: Blog

This blog post, by our Research Analyst Erin Schwab, is part of a monthly series unpacking data from the 2017 YRBS survey and making connections to out-of-school time programming in Vermont.

Ah, spring. Color is finally starts to reappear in our landscapes and the excitement of warm weather and sunshine gives us all a much-needed boost. Or does it? Springtime is actually the peak time of year for suicides. While the reasons are not yet well-understood, April, May and June see a spike in suicides in the northern hemisphere (with the same phenomenon happening in the spring months of October, November and December in the southern hemisphere).

Regardless of the time of year, depressive feelings and thoughts of suicide impact people of all ages. High school students navigating social pressures, bullying, and all kinds of changes and pressure in their lives can be especially vulnerable. Fortunately, we know that opportunities for engagement within school and community such as afterschool activities are protective factors against depression and suicide for adolescents.

Results from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which was completed by about 20,000 high school students across Vermont, show a negative correlation between afterschool participation and depression, suicidal behaviors, and self-harm among youth.

One survey item asked the youth whether they felt sad or hopeless — so much so that they stopped doing regular activities — almost every day for at least two weeks in the past year. One-third of students who did not participate in any afterschool programming reported that they had this experience. Among students who participated in between one and four hours of afterschool programming, this rate dropped to 25%. And for students who participated in 5-9 hours of afterschool activities and 10-19 hours, the percentages that said they had been depressed for two weeks was 19% and 18%, respectively.

Afterschool participation was also linked with a decrease in the percentage of youth who reported hurting themselves — such as by intentionally cutting or burning themselves — at some point in the year leading up to the survey. Twenty-two percent of students who were not participating in any afterschool activities at the time of the survey reported hurting themselves at some point in the most recent year. This percentage dropped to 15% for students who participated in between one and four hours of weekly afterschool programming and to 13% for students who participated in between five and 19 hours of weekly afterschool programming.

Some high school students went so far as to make a suicide plan in the year preceding the survey. Fifteen percent of students who were not enrolled in any afterschool activities reported that they had made a suicide plan at some point. Among students who participated in between one and four hours of weekly programming, this percentage decreased to 10%. For students who participated in between five and 19 hours of weekly afterschool programming, 9% reported having made a suicide plan at some point that year.

Finally, a small but significant percentage of high school students in Vermont actually attempted suicide in the year leading up to the 2017 YRBS. Eight percent of students who were not enrolled in any afterschool activities reported that they had attempted suicide at some point. Among students who participated in between one and four hours of weekly programming, this rate decreased to 5%. For students who participated in between five and 19 hours of weekly afterschool programming, 4% reported having attempted suicide at some point that year.

While we don’t like seeing that any amount of high school students in Vermont are depressed and/or suicidal, we are encouraged by the fact that afterschool participation help bring these percentages down. The more that youth can feel connected with their school and community and have a voice, the less likely they will fall victim to depression, self-harm and thoughts and attempts of suicide.

Please note: If you know someone who is thinking about hurting themselves and/or committing suicide, reach out to the national suicide hotline (24/7) at 1-800-273-8255.

Read past Data Digest blog posts here:

Join Our Email List
Join Our Email List
Visit us on Facebook

  © 2016   About Us  /  Contact Us