Pelham youth alcohol use, including binge drinking, again was a major concern derived by analysis of a Pelham Together student health survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders designed to monitor youth substance use and mental health and wellness.

Partnering with Pelham Public Schools and Dr. Suniya Luthar, a noted developmental psychologist and renowned expert in youth resilience who has focused her most recent research on outcomes for children in high achieving schools, Pelham Together this week released the findings report to help drive future programming.(A downloadable PDF of survey results is with this article.)

Dr. Luthar and her organization, Authentic Connections, surveys teens in high achieving school districts, like Pelham, to determine levels of symptoms such as substance use, anxiety, and depression. “Our kids have recently made the top four list for at-risk youth,” Dr. Luthar explained, referring to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that found that kids in high achieving districts, where there is excessive pressure to perform, struggle with mental health issues and substance use at higher rates than national norms.

One of Pelham’s greatest areas of concern is youth alcohol use, including binge drinking— defined as having five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks. 25% of Pelham teens report using alcohol in the past 30-Days as compared to 19% of their national peers. 17% of Pelham teens report binge drinking as compared to 9% of their national peers. Diving deeper by grade level, 56% of Pelham 12th graders report using alcohol in the past 30 days, and 44% report binge drinking, rates higher than their peers at the county and national levels as well as those at other high achieving schools.

The incidence of anxiety and depression among Pelham’s youth was lower than other high achieving schools—“Pelham is ahead of the curve here,” Dr. Luthar stated. However, the findings help identify subgroups within the youth population who may need more support. The survey also identifies the risk and protective factors that are associated with student outcomes, giving the community a deeper understanding of what we need to do to improve outcomes for Pelham youth as a whole.

Pelham Together and the Pelham School District are deeply committed to addressing the needs of our young people to ensure they thrive. “This data will drive programming, ensuring we target real needs and connect our community’s efforts to have the greatest impact on our young people,” said Laura Caruso, Executive Director of Pelham Together.

Pelham Together thanks the Pelham Civic Association for the generous support to make this project possible.

Pelham Together is a not-for-profit, community-based organization. It mission is to ensure a healthy and vibrant community for and with the youth of Pelham by connecting the community, informing parents and families about youth-related topics and risks, and elevating and empowering our youth. www.pelhamtogether.org

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