The percentage of Nevada high school and middle school students who say they've attempted suicide has declined over the past two years, as has the amount of alcohol and tobacco they reported using, a state survey indicates.
The biennial Nevada Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which quizzed students on drug and alcohol use, school safety and sexual activity, found students who responded are feeling better and acting safer in most areas, but showed a need for change in others.
Of the high school students responding to the survey last spring, 8.8 percent said they had attempted suicide in the 12 months prior to the survey, down from 10.7 percent in 2001. At the middle school level, 10.8 percent of students said they had attempted suicide, a drop from 11.9 percent in 2001.
The percentage of high school students who said they had ever considered attempting suicide also declined, from 19.6 percent in 2001 to 18.1 percent this year. The percentage of middle school students who said they had suicidal thoughts was 16.4 percent in 2003, unchanged from the prior survey.
The overall results are encouraging but show there is still work to be done, said Robinette Bacon, school health education coordinator for the Nevada Education Department.
"We are seeing some very positive trends," said Bacon, who presented the survey results at the state Board of Education's meeting Saturday in Las Vegas. "This helps us evaluate which of the messages being delivered in schools are hitting home with students."
The percentage of high school students who said they had been forced to have sexual intercourse against their will climbed from 9.2 percent in 2001 to 11 percent this year.
The percentage of students who said they had ever had sexual intercourse dipped to 46.4 from 49.1 percent in 2001, but teenagers reporting having four or more sexual partners jumped to 19 percent from 16.5 percent over the same period.
"The ones who are active are very active," Bacon said.
The percentage of students who said they had been offered, sold or given an illegal drug on campus declined in high schools, from 35.7 percent in 2001 to 34.5 percent this year; and increased in middle schools from 18.8 percent to 20.9 percent.
The percentage of high school students surveyed who said they were able to purchase tobacco products without being asked for identification dropped from 46 percent in 2001 to 39.5 percent this year.
The survey also showed:
-An increase in students who said they have ever belonged to a gang increased at the middle school level, to 11.5 percent from 10.3 percent in 2001; and a decrease at the high school level, to 13.1 percent from 14.3 percent.
-A decline in students who said they felt unsafe on campus, from 29.5 percent to 26.9 percent among middle school students; and from 30.5 percent to 23.2 percent among high school students.
-An increase in gambling among middle school students reported gambling, from 32.1 percent to 33.9 percent; and a decrease among high school students, from 37.4 percent to 35.8 percent.