EASTHAMPTON — A yearlong pilot program called “Getting to Y” is helping a group of city high school students gain a better understanding of what their peers are going through when it comes to a variety of health-related concerns, ranging from suicidal thoughts and the unfair treatment of students of color to perceptions of substance use.
Throughout the school year, members of the Getting to Y team have been analyzing the results of Easthampton High School’s local youth health survey data. In addition to brainstorming ways to call attention to areas of concern flagged in the survey, students in the new group are also offering potential solutions that they hope will ease the minds of their classmates. Much as the group’s name suggests, the high schoolers sought to determine why students were facing such problems.
Getting to Y is overseen by the Easthampton Healthy Youth Coalition and the Collaborative for Educational Services’ Strategic Planning Initiative for Families and Youth (SPIFFY) coalition as part of a program piloted in a handful of Massachusetts schools and communities by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services.
While most of the results of the prevention needs assessment survey were not surprising to the eight-member group, there were some startling data points, according to 16-year-old Sophie Slaghekke. For example, 25% of the 149 students in 10th and 12th grades at Easthampton High who completed the survey have seriously considered suicide within the past year. For those who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, the numbers were especially high.
“It’s super shocking and kind of hard to see,” Slaghekke said.
The prevention needs assessment survey, which SPIFFY administers every two years to all eighth, 10th, and 12th grade students in Hampshire County, monitors youth substance use, mental health, and other risk and protective factors, such as access, risk perceptions, parent disapproval and social support. The survey also assesses key demographic information.
For the Getting to Y team, SPIFFY provided data that was specific to Easthampton High students in comparison with the more than 1,400 respondents in other Hampshire County schools.