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KCHD: Almost 40% of high school students felt severe hopelessness or sadness

The survey also revealed around 19% of high school students drank alcohol over the previous 30 days — much less than the previous survey.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — The Knox County Health Department released the results of a survey that tracks behaviors negatively impacting the physical and mental health of high school students on Wednesday. The 2022 Youth Risk Behavior Survey focuses on issues like self-harm, violence, tobacco use, alcohol use, drug use, weight control behavior and diet.

The 2022 survey also focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and student health and social behaviors. They said 47 second-period classes from 12 out of 15 high schools were randomly chosen to be included in the sample, resulting in around 1,200 possible respondents. KCHD said 589 students chose to participate in the survey.

They were given paper surveys from March 7 through March 9, 2022. Around 15 questions were also excluded from the KCHD analysis because of significantly low "yes" responses. Those questions asked students if they carried a gun on school property, used heroin or if they used meth.

The report found that around 17% of students reported being bullied on school property over the last month, and 16% said they had been bullied electronically. Around 21% of female students reported being bullied electronically, compared to 10% of male students.

Around 40% of all students also said they felt so sad or hopeless that they stopped doing normal activities for two or more weeks in a row, a common indicator of depression. Almost 50% of female students reported they felt hopeless, compared to 28% of male students.

Almost a quarter of the students said their mental health had not been good most of the time. Around 23% said they deliberately hurt themselves in the past year.

However, KCHD said only around 9% of students reported attempting suicide over the past year, compared to 18% of students who reported attempting suicide in 2019.

Around 22% of students said they had seen someone physically attacked, beaten, stabbed or shot in their neighborhood. Around 8% said they were harmed over the last year.

Fewer students also report smoking cigarettes, vaping or drinking alcohol. However, 27% said they were offered, sold or given illegal drugs on school property in the last year.

Around 33% of students said they used apps on their phones while driving a car, excluding apps meant to help navigation. Almost 27% said they sent messages while driving too.

Around half of all students in the survey said they were trying to lose weight. Around 59% of female students said they were keeping an eye on the scale, compared to 37% of male students. 

The survey revealed around 21% of students also had an adult in their home lose their job during the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 11% said there was rarely an adult in their household who tried to make sure their basic needs were met, and almost 19% said they had been separated from a parent or guardian because they went to a jail, prison or detention center.

The survey included 261 male students, 296 female students, and 30 students who preferred not to answer. There were 85 Hispanic students included in the survey.

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