There’s nothing ‘distasteful’ about helping our youth succeed

Mary Stewart

Mary's Musings

Wyoming needs to do better.

Not at a lot of things, but taking care of our residents, especially our youth, when it comes to mental and behavioral health is something that we fail at.

Miserably.

According to the Center for Disease Control, Wyoming ranks first. Don’t get excited. Wyoming ranks first in highest number of suicides per 100,000 people.

25.2 deaths per 100,000.

One hundred and forty-seven Wyoming citizens took their own lives in 2018.

In my opinion that number is outrageous. Unforgivable.

What are the leaders of this great state doing about it?

Nothing.

Not one thing.

In fact, funding for suicide prevention and behavioral health has been reduced around the state. Many services for mental health education or care aren’t available to some towns around the state.

Just recently the Campbell County Prevention Coalition has announced that they will be able to have a counselor available for people who struggle with suicidal thoughts or substance abuse a couple times a month.

Before now, if you needed help, you had to drive to Gillette or Douglas.

The Wyoming House just killed an amendment last week that would have brought the state back into a national survey that asks middle and high school students questions about their health and behavior.

Considering that cases of sexually transmitted diseases has increased in the past two years, and the suicide rate keeps getting higher, you would think that our legislators, the ones who are “looking out for our best interests” would want to participate in the CDC’s Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.

Questions are posed to students and the data is used to identify trends and inform public health decisions on a local, state and national level.

Data from the survey has previously helped the Wyoming Department of Health’s programs on obesity prevention, tobacco control among youth, injury prevention including suicide, seat belt use, bullying and sexual health education efforts, according to the department’s spokeswoman Kim Deti.

Data has also been used to determine what projects and services to fund.

Wyoming has struggled with all of those issues. Vaping use has sky-rocketed, gonorrhea rates have spiked in recent years and in 2017 the group with the third-highest rate of growth with STDs were youth in their mid-to-late teens.

Yet our legislators decided that the questions posed were “distasteful” and refused to read them.

What kind of terrible questions were they?

Rep. Cathy Connolly, from Laramie, read them. Questions about contraceptives, number of partners, and if and when the student first had sex.

In order to help our youth, shouldn’t we be asking these questions?

In case you didn’t notice, but teens and pre-teens are growing up and maturing faster than ever. Society has pushed them into these older rolls with everything that’s on TV, movies and the internet.

Most of my friends didn’t even think about makeup until we were 16, now there are 13 year olds that can look like college girls.

Ignoring the issues and not having honest conversations with kids will only create higher STD stats and suicide rates.

We are the adults. We need to lead.

We have a problem and we can’t ignore it anymore.

Our futures, and their’s, depend on it.

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