Andrew McLean, 17, Beth Scamp, 19, Serena Keleher, 19, and Samantha Bradley, 19 discuss issues affecting youth.
Andrew McLean, 17, Beth Scamp, 19, Serena Keleher, 19, and Samantha Bradley, 19 discuss issues affecting youth. Brenda Strong

Youth suicide and obesity rates increase, drug use declines

YOUNG people today are more likely to complete high school and avoid teenage pregnancy than ten years ago, but are more susceptible to becoming overweight, homeless or affected by sexually transmitted diseases.

The findings emerged as part of the Snapshot: Children and Young People in Queensland 2013 report, released by the Commission for Children and Young people last week.

Statistics relating to youth suicide, healthy eating, drug and alcohol consumption and safe sex practices were put under the microscope.

The report found:

  • The suicide rate of Queensland males and females aged between 10-17 had almost doubled between 2001 and 2011.
  • More than one quarter of children and young people in Queensland were classified as overweight in 2011-12.
  • Drug use in 16 to 17-year-old males decreased from 35% to 30% between 2005 and 2011.
  • Young people reduced their daily consumption of fruit and vegetables considerably after they turned 12.
  • Almost 63% of young people learned about safe sex from friends, with mums being the next port of call.

Despite the alarming figures, Child and Young People acting Commissioner Barry Salmon said the Snapshot report found children and young people doing well.

"There have been noticeable decreases in the proportions of children developmentally at risk and vulnerable by the time they reach their first year of schooling," Mr Salmon said.

"The rate of young people continuing from the beginning to the end of secondary school is the highest it has been in a decade."

Mr Salmon said there had been a decline in the rate of teenage pregnancies and sexual assault victimisation.

Since 2002 the rate of teenage pregnancy has declined from 22.3 births per 1000 women to 21.6 births per 1000.

The rate of teenage pregnancies for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders has increased from 74.6 births per 1000 women in 2002 to 84.6 births per 1000 women in 2011.

Relationships Australia Gladstone counsellor Denise Reichenbach said it was common for young people be more emotional in their teenage years.

"In Gladstone the workforce is very transient and it is sometimes harder for young people to forge a connection with those in their community," she said.

"We get parents that will come in asking if they can book in their daughters or sons for a session. There is that level of concern for young people."

Findings

  • 17.9% of males said they had never sought advice for their sexual health, compared to 8.6% of females
  • 12% of males aged between 12-15 tried illicit drugs in 2011, compared to 10.3% of females.

Teens feel pressure of social media

SEX, alcohol and youth suicide are prevalent issues among our young people.

Teenagers Andrew McLean, 17, Beth Scamp, 19, Samantha Bradley, 19 and Serena Keleher, 19 agree that growing up in Gladstone provides plenty of challenges.

"Social media causes a lot of problems in young people's lives," Beth said.

"Girls are pressured into looking a certain way... and boys like to compete with each other."

The group said it was easier for the older generation to point the finger at young people.

"Our parents grew up in a different time when there was no social media and they were less likely to find out what kids were doing," Beth said.

The group agreed that sex education in schools was pointless because most teenagers figured it out for themselves.

While the group agreed with some aspects of the Snapshot 2013 report, they said it didn't completely represent the young people in Gladstone.