Who has a role in making our children, youth, families and community thrive?
I think we all do. We cannot ask most people if they feel they matter to other people in their communities. But it is a question asked of middle and high school youth on the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS), a voluntary survey conducted in many Maine schools every other year.
Do youth feel they matter?
The high school question and the middle school question is worded exactly the same: Do you agree or disagree that in your community you feel like you matter to people? Below are findings from the 2021 MIYHS.
- Of the 26,000+ high school students in grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 who answered the question
- Less than half, only 47%, of girls replied agree or strongly agree
- Over half, 56.3%, of all boys also replied agree or disagree with the question
- Of the 13,625 middle school students in grades 7 and 8 who answered the question
- Less than half, only 48.5%, of girls replied agree or strongly agree
- Over half, 62%, of all boys also replied agree or disagree with the question
These rates are concerning for many reasons some of which are the increased probabilities for youth to experiment and continue with some risky behaviors that could include trying tobacco or other substances, skipping school, unprotected sex, violence behavior, and possibly isolation. We also know that believing you do not matter to people, that you do not belong, have negative impacts on the mental health of all people, including our youth.
And remember youth who live in poverty, are members or racial or ethnic minorities, are immigrants or refuges, or identify as LGBTQ+ have even lower scores for feeling they belong. There are interesting perspectives about the LGBTQ+ youth in their own words on our website. (hccame.org – click on the LGBTQ+ tab)
Also the Gardiner Area Thrives Coalition is working to increase a sense of belonging for students and families served by MSAD #11 schools and towns or Gardiner, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner.
Wonder how a member of the community, a business owner, a town counselor or select board member or just about anyone can make a difference?
Take a look at the newly published Maine Youth Thriving Guide for Community Action* that you can find FREE on the Maine Resilience Building Network webpage.
Although youth are in school many hours a day for 180 days a year, schools are only one part of the systems that can support children and youth. The conditions in the community, state, and even in the country have a lot of influence on the wellbeing of our young people. And of course social media and other electronic entertainment forms shape our perceptions of our world and ourselves.
HCCA staff members and partners from Gardiner Area High School will be attending the April 12 and 13, 2023 conference Together We Can Thrive: Creating an equitable shared path forward to promote resilience in Maine communities. Join us if you can, or ask us about what we have learned.
Special Projects Administrator