Only half of our high school students feel like they matter. Let's do something about that.
Every two years, middle and high school students across the state participate in something called the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS). The survey is anonymous, and each school decides whether to participate. Students are asked about how much exercise they get, how many fruits and vegetables they eat, whether they use substances like tobacco, alcohol or drugs, if they're sexually active, and more. They're also asked questions that give us a sense of their mental health. Have they felt depressed? Considered suicide? Do they feel safe at school? One of the questions is, "Do you agree or disagree that in your community you feel like you matter to people?" The number of students in Oxford County who answered that they "Strongly agree" or "agree" on the most recent MIYHS, in 2019, was only 54.1%.
Let that sink in: a little over half of our high school students feel like they matter to their communities. What happens when our young people don't feel like they matter? It becomes more likely that they'll experience depression, consider suicide, or turn to substance use to numb the pain of not feeling valued by those around them.
The good news is that we're making progress on this front. Back in 2015, only 45.9% of Oxford County's high school students felt like they mattered to their communities. We've seen an 8% increase in 4 short years, which is fantastic progress. But we have lots more work to do if we want a future where those young people who don't feel like they matter are a small minority. And who wouldn't want that kind of future?!
More good news: the Maine Resilience Building Network (MRBN) is launching a campaign to increase mattering for Maine youth! An important community conversation about this work is taking place on Thursday, February 11th from 1:00-2:30. You can register for the event here: https://maineresilience.org/event-4088614
We hope that you'll join us in participating in this important conversation, and in the work to help more of our youth have a sense of their essential worth as human beings and valuable community members. Please share the invitation with any who you feel might be interested. This conversation is specifically for Oxford, Franklin, and Androscoggin counties.