Survey shows suicide risk high among Washington students

A Washington State health survey shows that suicide risk among students has not decreased over the last 10 years.

Washington's Healthy Youth Survey found that about 8 percent of eighth and tenth graders said they attempted suicide during the past year and about one in six Washington students, ages 12 to 17, have seriously considered suicide. More than one in four teens surveyed said they felt so sad or hopeless for two weeks in a row that they stopped doing their usual activities.

Secretary of Health Mary Selecky told KOMO Newsradio reporter Charlie Harger that parents need to listen to their kids.

"Kids who are saying 'My life isn't worth anything' is that given because of one instance in school or is that a statement that's being made too many times?"

Selecky said many state programs designed to reduce teen suicide were cut back in the economic downturn.

The survey did find found fewer students are smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol.

Also concerning though, the number of secondary school students who believe using marijuana is risky dropped to the lowest level since the state started collecting data.

"The physical and emotional health of our youth is crucial to their success in school, in work, in personal relationships, and in their communities," said Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Kevin W. Quigley. "It's good to celebrate that fewer teens are using alcohol and tobacco, but it's clear many teens need more support from the adults in their lives and from friends to make healthy choices and cope with challenges."

The Healthy Youth Survey is taken every two years by students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 in more than 1,000 public schools in Washington. More than 200,000 youth took part in the survey in October 2012 by answering a wide variety of questions about their health and health behaviors. All responses were voluntary and anonymous.

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