Teens speak out

Mary Wicoff|Commercial-NewsStacy Sprague, community program manager with OSF HealthCare Sacred Heart Medical Center, talks about I Sing the Body Electric teen survey results. The annual survey goes out to teenagers in Vermilion County.

DANVILLE — Results of a survey about youth risk behaviors are both encouraging and discouraging.

On the positive side, the survey shows a decrease in the number of teens who drink, take drugs or smoke. However, incidences of depression and suicide have increased.

“Depression and suicide are our biggest concerns,” said Stacy Sprague, program manager with I Sing the Body Electric, an outreach program of OSF HealthCare Sacred Heart Medical Center. “It’s disturbing to see how they’re struggling.”

The survey shows 17.4 percent of young people who answered questions attempted suicide at least once during the past year — nearly double the national average of 8.6 percent.

Results of the ISBE Youth Risk Behavior Health Survey were made public Friday during a forum at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

More than 3,300 Vermilion County high school students were surveyed in 2016 about their attitudes and health behaviors relating to social, emotional and economic issues. The questions covered a variety of issues, including substance abuse, drinking and driving, nutrition, body image, bullying and tobacco use.

Just more than 1,800 actually responded, or 55 percent.

The ninth biennial survey report also includes data and a retrospective analysis of health risks since the first biennial survey in 2002.

Sprague noted that current cigarette use by teens has decreased by 76.6 percent since 2002. While that’s good news, she’s concerned about the flip side: About 19.3 percent of teens currently use e-cigarettes, a 54 percent increase from 2016.

The use of marijuana is down: 18 percent reported current marijuana use, which is a 24.4 percent decrease from the highest recordings in 2004 and 2006.

However, with talks of legalizing marijuana, she worries those numbers will go back up.

For the first time, there were no reports of heroin use. There was a 100 percent decrease in surveyed students who have used heroin in the past year; the highest number was 4.2 percent in 2010.

Sprague noted that ages 18-25 are most at risk for becoming heroin addicts.

An interesting statistic is that there was a 49 percent decrease in the number of youth who took prescription drugs not prescribed to them. Sprague said there are six drug take-back boxes in the county. OSF in Danville has collected 400 pounds of unused medications since boxes were set up in June.

At Friday’s forum, Dr. Jared Rogers, regional president and CEO of OSF HealthCare Sacred Heart and Heart of Mary medical centers, gave a history of the program. After a community board found a myriad of health risk behaviors in 2000, the ISBE program was adopted to educate young people on making healthy life choices.

Timothy Lee, principal of Oakwood High School, said his students look forward to working on the art projects.

“It’s an excellent way to give students a voice and realize they’re not the only ones going through something,” he said.

The school is doing its part to address students’ concerns, such as bringing in a speaker to discuss drug abuse and simulating demonstrations on how to avoid distracted driving, he said. Students also are creating positive messages that they’ve posted throughout the building.

Also speaking were Sheri McKiernan, regional director of community resources with Sacred Heart and Heart of Mary; Melissa Rome, emergency planning and response coordinator with the Vermilion County Health Department; and Jim Russell, executive director of the Vermilion County Mental Health 708 Board.

They spoke about how data from the survey help organizations hear the voices of the youth and helps them apply for grants to address those concerns.

Summing up the forum, Sprague said, “If we continue to stay on top of the challenges, we can provide our children with skills to make good choices in life.”

Sprague also said the surveys are held to high honesty standards; if a survey is not 40 percent completed or if there are suspicious answers, it’s thrown out.


As part of ISBE’s three-phase program, the next step following the survey results will be to engage students in creating prevention messages using the arts at the end of April.

The completed projects are then shared throughout the county to educate the community and in particular, teens, about healthy behaviors to help guide them on making good choices.

The kickoff will be June 8 at the Village Mall, and then the art show will visit businesses, events and schools so other students and adults can see what’s on youth’s minds.

Sprague noted that young people often open up and talk about their struggles while viewing the art show. “It’s a brave step for them to reach out for help,” she said.

Also, Sprague is excited about the chance to share her work with other OSF facilities.

Following Danville’s lead, the OSF Center for Health in Streator has begun working with high school students in its county to create its first ISBE health and prevention projects. In September, Sprague took about 60 Vermilion County students to Streator for the program's kickoff. Ottawa was having an Omni Prize Art Festival at the beginning of September and the program manager, Ellen Vogel, who has replicated the program there, set up the projects as part of the art fair and invited the schools and community to see the program’s art collection.

"The community absolutely loved our students' art and it helped students and their community to get a better idea of what to expect in their own project development phase," she said.

Primary funding for the award-winning program comes from revenue generated at the annual Festival of Trees fundraising event. Additional funding comes from local foundation and corporate grants, as well as gifts from civic clubs and individual contributors.


Here are some of the highlights of the survey:

• 48.4 percent decrease in youth who ride with someone who has been drinking alcohol

• 40.5 percent decrease in high schoolers who have had at least one drink of alcohol in the previous 30 days before the survey (“current users”)

• 30.6 decrease decrease in teens who have had at least one drink of alcohol in their lives

• 76.6 percent decrease in “current” tobacco use

• 14.3 percent decrease in “current” marijuana

• 1.5 percent reported taking ecstasy in the past 12 months — the lowest reported use in ISBE survey history.

• 51.9 percent decrease in use of synthetic drugs like K2, Spice or Bath Salts

• Nearly four out of 10 teens (39.5 percent) report feeling so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more that they stopped doing some of their usual activities — a 42 percent increase since 2002

• 17.4 percent reports attempting suicide at least once during the past year

• Nearly two out of five youth (38.5 percent) report being bullied on school property in the previous 12 months

• 19.3 percent of teens currently use e-cigarettes — a 54 percent increase from 2016

• 57.6 percent decrease in sexually active students who used no method of birth control. That percentage (5 percent of students who used no birth control) is the lowest reported in ISBE survey history.

• 6.6 percent of teens have been pregnant or fathered a child one or more times; that a 10 percent increase from 2016.

• 14.5 percent of teens reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse. That’s the highest reported in survey history and a 30.6 percent increase from 2016.

• 10.9 percent of students reported they have gone hungry because there was not enough food in their home. That’s a new question for the survey.


To request a complete copy of the 2018 ISBE Survey Report, email Stacy Sprague at stacy.r.sprague@osfhealthcare.org or call her at 442-6594.

Also, parents who want their children (eighth through 12th grades) to participate in the survey should contact Sprague. This applies to students who might have missed an earlier chance.

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