Kelowna News

Self harm among Okanagan youth higher than rest of province

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OKANAGAN – The results of a province-wide survey on the health of B.C. adolescents shows that young people in the Okanagan are more likely to participate in activities that risk their health than teens in the rest of the province.

The study was conducted by the McCreary Centre Society and looked at survey responses from roughly 30,000 students between grade 7 and 12 across B.C. The students were asked 130 questions about their health as well as risk factors in their lives such as exercise, nutrition and drug use.

The most worrisome statistics have to do with risky behaviours like drug use and self harm. Although most youths in the Okanagan reported good physical and mental health, felt connected to their families and had positive plans for the future, the local instances of reported self harm is significantly higher than the provincial average.

The survey results show 12 per cent of females in the Okanagan have had thoughts of suicide compared with the provincial average of nine per cent. Although there was no difference among Okanagan males and the rest of the province, 28 per cent of females in the valley reported harming themselves deliberately compared with 22 per cent in the rest of the province.

Okanagan youth were also more likely than students from the rest of the province to have smoked tobacco (29 per cent vs. 21 per cent) or consumed alcohol and roughly 69 per cent had their first drink before turning 15. That number has decreased since 2008.

Since 2008, reports of alcohol use dropped in the Okanagan from 62 to 52 per cent, however this rate is still higher than the provincial 45 per cent.

The number of males who have tried marijuana remained similar to the provincial average although local females were more likely to have tried marijuana than the rest of B.C. One-third of Okanagan youth have tried marijuana.

Since 2008 there was no change locally in the use of cocaine (four per cent), ecstasy (six per cent), mushrooms (eight per cent), amphetamines (two per cent), heroin (one per cent) and steroids (one per cent). Two per cent of students have tried ketamine or GHB, although instances of use of these substances was not recorded prior to 2013.

The report also found that the more sleep students got the more likely they were to report good or excellent mental health. Obese youth who ate three or more servings of fruit or vegetable the previous day were also more likely to report positive mental health.

Youth who reported their families paid attention to them were less likely to be passengers in a vehicle driven by someone high on drugs and alcohol and students whose parents monitored their spare time got more sleep.

And gay, lesbian and bisexual students who had an adult outside their family to talk to were more likely to have positive outlooks on the future.

Areas included in the Okanagan demographic included Vernon, Central Okanagan, Okanagan Similkameen, Nicola-Similkameen, Okanagan Skaha and North Okanagan-Shuswap.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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