Nova Scotia

Student survey shows 'concerning' mental health numbers

A new survey says Nova Scotia students in four selected grades who attend junior and senior high schools were most likely to try alcohol over drugs last year.

Drug and alcohol use remains steady, while smoking numbers drop dramatically

Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health discusses the results of a student drug survey. 3:24

A new survey says Nova Scotia students in four selected grades who attend junior and senior high schools were most likely to try alcohol over other drugs last year.

More than 3,000 students were surveyed in Grades 7, 9, 10 and 12.

Some of the key findings about drug and alcohol use include:

  • 49 per cent consumed alcohol in 2012. Nearly half of them — 27 per cent — said they drank more than once a month.
  • 34.7 per cent used cannabis, 14.2 per cent said they used it more than once a month.
  • 43 per cent said they used neither drugs nor alcohol.

The researchers flagged the area of mental health in particular. For the first time, the results included statistics from teens who were asked about suicide:

  • Nearly one in five said they considered suicide in 2012.
  • 11.6 per cent made a suicide plan.
  • 8 per cent attempted suicide one or more times.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health said the responses are concerning.

"Those numbers are telling us that mental health issues are a significant concern for our young people," he said.

"But I also think we need to understand that substance use is often very much part of that. So all of these different issues link together, so at the end of the day, I think it's a call for — again — collective action."

The chief of the department of psychiatry at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax said the findings on the number of adolescents who considered suicide shows it is important for parents to communicate with their children.

The researchers from Dalhousie University who conducted the survey said it was done in 176 randomly selected classes at 75 schools throughout Nova Scotia.

With files from The Canadian Press

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