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Home » Uncategorized » Are the kids alright in Doña Ana County?

Are the kids alright in Doña Ana County?


Survey gives insights into Doña Ana County high school students’ lives.

Friday, December 14, 2018; Las Cruces, NMDoña Ana County high school students reported continued decreases in alcohol use, binge drinking and being bullied on school property in the recent Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey (YRRS) results for 2017. The survey is conducted every two years and gauges the healthy, and not so healthy, behaviors of Middle and High School students across the nation.

The Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey Road Show came to Silver City this week with experts (pictured right to left): Dan Green, NMDOH Survey Epidemiologist; Anne Marlow-Geter, Healthy Schools Coordinator; Robyn Viera, UNM Scientific Research Manager; and James Padilla, NMDOH Tobacco Epidemiologist.

Last week the YRRS Road Show stopped in Las Cruces with a presentation from members of the team that conducted and compiled the results from over 40,000 New Mexican Middle and High School students who participate in the survey, according to James Padilla, Tobacco Epidemiologist from the New Mexico Department of Health’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Program. The High School County results were given at the presentation; Middle School results will be released later in the month.

“We are very fortunate to have such investment from school districts and superintendents.Where New Mexico goes above and beyond is the inclusion of Native Americans and rural students. We also include resiliency factors in our version of the survey,” said Dan Green, MPH, Survey Epidemiologist for the New Mexico Department of Health’s Injury and Behavioral Epidemiology Bureau.

So how are Doña Ana County High School students doing? As always, Doña Ana County youth rank high in resiliency factors like having a caring adult in their lives or having friends that care about them. Factors that can protect them from risky behaviors and mitigate emotional or mental distress.

Unfortunately, 36.1 percent of Doña Ana County High School students report they felt sad or hopeless in the past 12 months, slightly less than the state’s average of 36.6 percent but the statistic has steadily increased in both the county and state over the last decade.

According to Green, “There has been an increased trend in reporting sadness and since 2011; and increased screen time is associated with increased reports of sadness and hopelessness.” Youth report logging screen time on smart phones, computers and video games, even as reports of television watching decreased.

Moral: monitor your high schoolers’ screen time and check in with them to see how they are feeling.

More good news, current alcohol use by Doña Ana County High School students is at decade low, only 31 percent.

Also, 13 percent of Doña Ana County High School students report binge drinking, consuming four drinks for women and five drinks for men on a single occasion, in the last year, the lowest level in over a decade.

Other good news, only 14 percent Doña Ana County High School students reported being bullied on school property in the last year, the lowest percent in the history for the question being asked. The same decade low trend was reported with experiences of electronic bullying, a mere 12 percent,probably due to social media taking a stronger stance and adding features to address online bullying.

Unfortunately, there are some worrisome trends among Doña Ana County High School students. Though reports of using of painkillers to “get high” has declined over the past decade to a low of 8 percent for Doña Ana County High School students, a staggering one in five students reported using prescription painkillers without a prescription.

Prescription painkillers are dispensed based on patient’s body weight, metabolism, and reported pain levels, if someone else takes the prescription, like a teen who weighs less than the person the drugs were prescribed to, it can lead to an accidental overdose or poisoning.  And a majority of teens report accessing painkillers,just like alcohol, from family and friends so secure prescription medications in a lock box where they can’t be easily accessed.

Current tobacco use among Doña Ana County High School students is at a decade’s high, 31 percent, with e-cigarettes use fueling the hike. E-cigarettes, or vaping, is the most used tobacco product among Doña Ana County youth, 22 percent currently using, with cigarettes and cigars ranking a distant second and third in use, weighing in both at 11 percent.

Worrisomely, almost half of Doña Ana County High School students have used e-cigarettes in their lifetime, that’s a significantly higher rate lifetime reported use of any other form of tobacco.

The YRRS introduced several new questions on gambling, concussions and gender identity.

“We found a big gender disparity in the gambling question,” reported Green. In Doña Ana County, a mere 17 percent of female high school students reported gambling in past last year, while in comparison 36 percent of male students reportedly gambled. 

About 20 percent of Doña Ana County High school students self-reported concussions with in the last year, and reports declined by grade level with freshmen and sophomores reporting the highest incidents.  This question was added due to recent scientific studies on the impact of early brain injury and the concern for athletic injuries.

Unified Prevention Coalition (UP!) of Doña Ana County Director Marisol Diaz attended the YRRS Road Show and said, “The collective work of the coalition, related to a variety of substances, is one piece of the collective payoff we are seeing throughout the county.  Having the information tracked over a period of time, by the department of health, allows us to see where we are making improves and also identify where we need to focus our efforts.”

The results of the YRRS did reveal a huge section of New Mexico teens, roughly one-third of students, fell into one of five categories identified as high-risk: unstable housing, people with disabilities,gender expansive, foreign-born and gay, lesbian or bisexual. Even identifying as one of these categories, which over 33 percent of New Mexico students do,dramatically increases their vulnerability to risks like homelessness, bullying,physical violence, drug use, and sexual and dating violence. 

Most concerning, Green stated, “These five groups account for 75 percent of all suicide attempts reported on the survey.”

Green hopes the outcomes of the YRRS will help direct health and wellness policies for schools and the state, but most importantly he said, “Prevention efforts must target the high-risk groups and needs to outreach to include these students who are sometimes invisible and hard to reach.”

UP! program specialist Julia Rausch said of the survey, “It is important to have the YRRS but also how we work to supplement this data with the local community survey to make the evaluation and planning process of the coalition much for solid, data driven, and directed toward the issues that affect our communities”.

The full YRRS state and county reports are available for download at

This news release is made available from the Unified Prevention Coalition of Doña Ana County, a program of the Center for Health Innovation and funded by the New Mexico Office of Substance Abuse Prevention. For more information contact the CHI Prevention and Community Collaboration Director Marisol Diaz at (575)597-0042 or email: