Students pose during a February 2016 Pink Shirt Day event at Semiahmoo Secondary. (File photo)

Surrey youth say discrimination, racism on rise: survey

2018 BC Adolescent Health Survey results released

A survey that aims to provide essential information about health trends in youth highlights a rise in racism and discrimination concerns amongst B.C.’s Grade 7-12 students, including those in Surrey and Delta.

According to the survey, conducted by the McCreary Centre Society, the percentage of youth who had experienced discrimination due to their race, ethnicity, or skin colour increased to 18 per cent from 14 per cent in 2013, and local youth were more likely than youth across B.C. to experience racism (18 per cent versus 14 per cent).

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“While Fraser South was not unique in seeing an increase in youth reporting experiencing racism it is obviously worrying, as was the finding that local students feel less safe at school, in their community and on transit than in previous years,” McCreary Centre Society executive director Annie Smith said in a news release sharing findings of the 2018 BC Adolescent Health Survey.

“This may well be having a knock-on effect on mental health as we also saw a decrease in youth reporting they experienced positive mental health and more than 1 in 6 having seriously considered suicide in the past year. But we do also see local youth are really resilient with most of them satisfied with their quality of life, hopeful for their future, and making plans to graduate and go on to post-secondary.”

The survey was conducted in 58 of BC’s 60 school districts, and was the sixth time that students have been asked to participate since 1992. It was last carried out in 2013. Langley School District did not participate in the latest round, the release notes.

Participation in the latest survey was the highest since it began, the release notes, adding that the results are considered representative of over 95 per cent of mainstream school students in Grades 7–12 in the province.

In addition to health trends, the survey aims to provide information about “risk and protective factors that can influence young people’s healthy transitions to adulthood.”

The 2018 iteration included 140 questions asking youth about their perceptions of their current physical and mental health, their engagement in health promoting and health risk behaviours, and about factors that can contribute to a healthy transition to adulthood.

Here are some of the findings:

• the percentage of students who never ate breakfast on school days increased to 18 per cent from 12 per cent in 2013, while the number of those who purged (vomited on purpose after eating) in the past year increased to 10 per cent for males (from four per cent) and to 14 per cent for females (from eight per cent);

• the percentage of students who rated their overall health as good or excellent decreased (to 82 per cent, from 87 per cent in 2013 );

• 16 per cent of local youth had seriously considered suicide in the past year (up from 11 per cent in 2013). The local increase was seen in both males and females, however, the percentage of females who had attempted suicide decreased, to six per cent (from eight per cent in 2013);

• local students were more likely than those across B.C. to miss out on needed mental-health services because they had no transportation (14 per cent versus 10 per cent provincially);

• compared to youth across B.C., local youth were less likely to have ever used tobacco (13 per cent vs. 18 per cent), alcohol (35 per cent vs. 44 per cent) or marijuana (20 per cent vs. 25 per cent), and to have vaped in the past month (24 per cent vs. 27 per cent);

• eight percent of youth in Fraser South went to bed hungry at least sometimes because there was not enough money for food at home. This percentage was higher than in 2013 (six per cent) but still lower than across B.C. (10 per cent);

• students were less likely to feel safe at school than five years earlier and were less likely to feel safe in their neighbourhood than youth across B.C. For example, 66 per cent of local males felt safe in their neighbourhood at night (vs. 73 per cent provincially), as did 50 per cent of local females (vs. 58 per cent);

• seventy-five per cent of youth had turned to a family member for help in the past year, and the majority of these students (95 per cent) found this experience helpful;

• local youth were more likely than youth across B.C. to have friends who would be upset with them if they dropped out of school (84 per cent vs. 82 per cent), were involved in a pregnancy (76 per cent vs. 73 per cent), used marijuana (61 per cent vs. 55 per cent) or got drunk (54 per cent vs. 45 per cent);

• most students in Fraser South felt that school staff expected them to do well (81 per cent), they were treated fairly by school staff (73 per cent), their teachers cared about them (68 per cent), they were happy to be at school (64 per cent) and they were a part of their school (63 per cent).

For the full report, visit https://www.mcs.bc.ca/pdf/balance_and_connection_frasersouth.pdf

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