Why Community Advocates Should Include Students at the Beginning

It takes a village to raise a child, the saying goes. To ensure the best outcome, that village should also include fellow young people, not just adults, which is why community advocates should include students at the beginning of their outreach programs.

Community coalitions are always looking to engage students in their area, but often this is transactional as opposed to collaborative. Sometimes that works out well, and the end goal is achieved (student engagement, a decrease in adverse behavior, etc.). However, this type of setup can often leave students feeling as though they’re being sold on something, rather than an ingrained aspect of it holistically.

Bringing students into the decision-making process before implementation seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not always the case. And study after study shows that if students are engaged and buy-in is achieved, positive results will follow. According to one study, “Student engagement in community advocacy activities that addressed environmental influences of cigarette smoking resulted in significant decreases in regular smoking.”[1]

By engaging students and younger generations at the beginning, community coalitions can tap into their enthusiasm to help create a positive change both within the younger community as well as the community writ large. For example, in Omaha, Nebraska, local leaders saw a drastic increase in obesity rates for a specific part of the city. One hypothesis posited that the community’s older generation might have entrenched eating habits and would be resistant to change, so it opted to bring in the younger generation to help create the necessary infrastructure to build a sustainable approach to healthier eating.

Childhood obesity is a major concern within the United States, but it’s especially a concern among the Latinx community. According to Dr. Gopal Singh, “In 2007, 16.4% of U.S. children were obese and 31.6% were overweight. From 2003 to 2007, obesity prevalence increased by 10% for all U.S. children but increased by 23%–33% for children in low-education, low-income, and higher unemployment households. Obesity prevalence increased markedly among Hispanic children and children from single-mother households.”[2]

The study found that this lack of infrastructure was a major impediment to changing the behaviors and outcomes desired, but by engaging students and the younger generations, it created the necessary environment for success down the road. “Our program generated infrastructure and materials to support the growth and institutionalization of youth advocacy as a means of increasing community readiness for addressing obesity prevention.”[3]

Students will actively take part in causes they feel personally invested in. Reaching out to younger generations and giving them a seat at the table at the beginning of community advocacy efforts goes a long way to create stronger bonds and a firm desire to succeed. Rather than relying on students and their peers to engage on the backend of these efforts, bring them into the mix and allow them to help shape what exactly those efforts will be.

Peer pressure is often viewed as a negative aspect of adolescent behavior, but it can work toward positive results, too. When students see their peers becoming part of an “in-group” for something there is a stronger desire to engage. That works with students playing sports, joining clubs, liking similar art, and, in some cases, taking part in advocacy work within their community.

“We argue that the involvement of children’s and adolescents’ peer networks in prevention and intervention efforts may be critical for promoting and maintaining positive behavioral health trajectories,” was how one RAND Corporation study succinctly stated.[4]

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of bringing students into the fold at the beginning of a community advocacy project is getting them in the door, literally. How can you speak to their interests and break through the noise when they’re being pulled in multiple directions all at once? How can you get students interested in your community outreach efforts? This is where Pride Surveys can help. At Pride Surveys, we’ve surveyed students for decades, asking them about their challenges, goals, and environment. We go directly to the source — the students themselves — and find out what’s really going on in their community. This data enables community advocates to better understand the problem areas students face and to better understand how to speak to those problems when attempting to get participation.

[1] “Effects of an Advocacy Intervention to Reduce Smoking Among Teenagers.” Retrieved on August 13, 2019 at https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/485644

[2] “Rising Social Inequalities in US Childhood Obesity, 2003–2007.” Retrieved on August 20, 2019 at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S104727970900324X

[3] “SaludableOmaha: Development of a Youth Advocacy Initiative to Increase Community Readiness for Obesity Prevention, 2011–2012.” Retrieved on August 17, 2019 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3523892/.

[4] “Influence of Peers and Friends on Children’s and Adolescents’ Eating and Activity Behaviors,” Retrieved on August 23, 2019 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22480733/

Why Community Coalitions Should Partner with Youth Sports Organizations

Community coalitions are in a constant battle for attention among people within the coalition’s footprint. People live busy lives between work, family commitments, and any bit of free time they can manage, which makes it hard to get people to take the time needed to learn about what your community coalition is doing in the area.

According to Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, a coalition is a voluntary, formal agreement and collaboration between groups or sectors of a community in which each group retains its identity, but all agree to work together toward a common goal of building a safe, healthy, and drug-free community.

America’s teenage community is under intense mental strain. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 20% of youth ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition and 11 % of youth have a mood disorder.[1]

The driving force of these statistics varies — social media use among teens, the pressure to succeed in schools, etc. —but the fact remains that one in five teenagers in America lives with a mental health condition. Community coalitions are on the front lines of the fight against the dangerous effects these conditions have on our teens.

Community coalitions are comprised of parents, teachers, law enforcement, businesses, religious leaders, health providers and other community activists who are mobilizing at the local level — and nationally under the CADCA umbrella — to make their communities safer, healthier and drug-free.[2]

As non-profit organizations, community coalitions are full of volunteers working under often incredibly tight budgets, meaning they have to be creative and highly efficient with any amount of resources at their disposal.

Targeting events or organizations where a large group of interested parties attends is the goal, but where would that be? What event — or group of events — is a consistent draw for engaged parents, local business leaders, and a diverse group of people?

The answer could be youth sports events. Think about it. As a community coalition, you want to have a consistent message that you can deliver directly to the source (parents and teens and tweens). What is a more consistent venue than youth sports complexes in your community? Whether it’s a church basketball league, youth soccer club, or anything in between, what you’ll find at these venues is a group of involved parents or guardians from your community and a large group of teens and tweens. To put it simply: the exact group you’re looking to engage and influence in a positive manner.

Community coalitions are looking for a receptive audience for its messaging, and youth sports leagues can provide that on a consistent basis. Youth sports leagues are often struggling for funding. In fact, between 2009 and 2011, $3.5 billion — yes, billion with a “b” — was cut from sports programs around the country.[3]

This cut in funding has a real impact on teens and tweens participating in youth sports. From 2011 to 2017, team or individual sport participation has declined by nearly 4%, with a larger decline in the percentage of kids who regularly participated in high-calorie-burning sports (28.7% to 23.9%). [4]

If your community coalition has available funding in might want to look into donating to various local youth sports organizations. That decision could create partnerships with sports leagues within your community, enabling your coalition to promote your message in front of a target audience. This kind of funding also acts as a key driver to a healthier, more vibrant community, which is typically part of every community coalition’s mission.

Weaving your coalition’s message into the fabric of youth sports allows a diverse set of your community’s citizens to experience your organization provided you space out which sports your target. Getting your message in front of parents who — by the very nature of them attending youth sports events – are more inclined to be engaged and willing listeners is a smart way to drive your message directly to the people you most want to listen: Parents and teenagers.

Navigating the oft-troubled waters of teenage health and wellness is an immense challenge. Being consistent and on-message with your local teenage community is paramount to maintaining a healthy, drug-free group, but knowing what message resonates can be a challenge. That’s why Pride Surveys can be a vital tool in your toolbox. We can customize surveys that get direct, honest feedback from teenagers themselves. This data is vital for community coalitions, interested organizations, and parents alike.

Please browse our selection of available surveys and don’t hesitate to call our team to discuss your needs and how we can assist your community coalition in better understanding your teenage community.

[1] “The Effects of Team Sports on Mental Health in Adolescents,” Retrieved on June 14, 2019, at https://digitalcommons.brockport.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1065&context=pes_synthesis

[2] “Join or Start a Coalition,” Retrieved on June 13, 2019, at https://www.cadca.org/join-or-start-coalition

[3] “Going, Going, Gone: The Decline of Youth Sports,” Retrieved on June 16, 2019, at https://playballfoundation.org/going-going-gone-the-decline-of-youth-sports/

[4] “State of Play 2018: Trend and Developments,” Retrieved on June 20, 2019, at https://assets.aspeninstitute.org/content/uploads/2018/10/StateofPlay2018_v4WEB_2-FINAL.pdf


How Opioids Work and What They do to Teenagers

We used this space to educate and inform community leaders, parents, and teenagers about how drugs affect teenage bodies. We’ve done the same for alcohol, as well. Now we want to break out and specifically discuss the greatest drug threat in America today: Opioids.

You’ve most likely heard about opioids in the news, and sadly many of you probably know someone who has dealt with the devastating effects in America’s ongoing battle against opioid addiction and abuse.

In 2012, there were 467,000 people in the United States addicted to heroin, a powerful street opioid, yet in the same year, more than 2 million Americans were abusing opioid painkillers.[1]

This tracks with the general trend in the United States, writ large, as 2017 saw a 10% increase in overall drug overdose deaths, as more than 70,000 Americans died in from a drug-related overdose that year.[2]

Unfortunately, the trend line for opioid use among teenagers — as well as the mortality rate — is only getting worse. In a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers found, “Over 18 years, nearly 9,000 children and adolescents died from opioid poisonings, and the mortality rate increased nearly 3-fold.”[3]

Understanding Why Teens Use Drugs

Before we dive into what happens to teenagers when they use opioids, we first must understand why teens might reach for drugs in the first place.

Our teenage years are challenging in many ways, both physically and mentally. The rapid ascent toward adulthood is in constant combat with the whims of youth, which often leads to poor decision making.

This internal battle often leads to teenagers looking for an escape from the pressures they face. Sometimes this escape is entirely innocent, like a book or a movie. Other times, however, it can lead to drug use.

As for why this happens, we can thank biology for the rate at which our brains develop. According to the Partnership for Drug Free Kids, “The part of the brain that controls reasoning and impulses — known as the prefrontal cortex — is near the front of the brain and, therefore, develops last. This part of the brain does not fully mature until the age of 25.”[4]

Parents and mentors need to understand why teenagers are susceptible to falling into drug use. Staying active in their lives by asking questions about their thoughts and feelings keeps teenagers engaged and less likely to seek refuge in illicit drugs, while simultaneously keeping parents and mentors involved, as well.

Why are Opioids so Addictive?

The science behind opioids —prescription painkillers, heroin, fentanyl — is a large reason why we’re facing an epidemic of abuse and addiction in America. These drugs are powerful, and they impact the brain in ways it wants us to replicate, which necessitates an increased dosage.

Opioids attach to pain receptors on nerve cells in your brain and your body, essentially turning them off for a period of time. This is why they were first invented, as a way of managing severe pain from injury or a medical procedure.

“Opioids can make your brain and body believe the drug is necessary for survival,” according to the American Association of Anesthesiologists. “As you learn to tolerate the dose you’ve been prescribed, you may find that you need even more medication to relieve the pain — sometimes resulting in addiction.”[5]

When you no longer trip those impulses in the brain, the brain, and the body take over and push you back toward the opioid, leading to addiction.

The Impact of Opioid Addiction on Teenagers

Once addicted, overuse of opioids — legal or illicit — begin to break our bodies down. Infections in the heart lining can occur, while respiratory depression can lead to slowed breathing, which is potentially fatal.[6]

Abusing opiates can also weaken your immune system, leading to a greater chance of falling ill to viruses your body would otherwise be able to ward off.[7]

Talk to Your Teenagers and Look Out for Signs of Drug use

Parents and mentors of teenagers need to understand the signs of opioid and other drug use as well as how prevalent their use may be within the community writ large. Because of the risk factors that go along with drug use, any type of drug can be harmful to the body, whether it is misuse of prescribed medications or illicit substances.

Pride Surveys developed its Risk and Protective Factor (RPF) student perception survey, a hybrid version of the Communities That Care (CTC) Youth Survey and the Pride Questionnaire for Grades 6 to 12 to measure the risk factors that show the strongest correlation to drug use. It contains the Core Measures required by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for their Drug-Free Communities Grant that went into effect February 2013 and asks about incidences of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use plus perceptions of availability and disapproval of use from parents and friends.

The benefit of choosing a survey company is that we take the guesswork out of the surveying process to ask the difficult questions. For more than thirty years, Pride Surveys has been helping schools collect data on teen substance abuse perceptions and drug use trends in their communities through scalable survey products. We offer multiple drug-free community survey options as well as student risk perception surveys designed to help assess teen substance abuse and risk, including our student surveys for grades 6-12, and our supplemental surveys like the Drug-Free Community Survey Supplement.

Browse the different types of scalable student surveys we offer and find out why Pride Surveys is the best choice to help you survey your school. Questions? Give us a call at 800-279-6361 or contact us here.


[1] “The Effects of Opiates on Your Body.” Retrieved on 18 March 2019 at https://drugabuse.com/featured/the-effects-of-opiates-on-the-body/

[2] “New Data Show Growing Complexity of Drug Overdose Deaths in America.” Retrieved on 19 March 2019 at https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p1221-complexity-drug-overdose.html

[3] “US National Trends in Pediatric Deaths from Prescription and Illicit Opioids, 1999-2016.” Retrieved 18 March 2019 at https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2719580

[4] “Brain Development, Teen Behavior and Preventing Drug Use.” Retrieved on 18 March 2019 at https://drugfree.org/article/brain-development-teen-behavior/

[5] “Opioid Treatment: What Are Opioids?” Retrieved on 18 March 2019 at https://www.asahq.org/whensecondscount/pain-management/opioid-treatment/what-are-opioids/

[6] “The Effects of Opiates on Your Body.” Retrieved on 19 March 2019 at https://drugabuse.com/featured/the-effects-of-opiates-on-the-body/.

[7] Ibid.

The Power of Youth Empowerment Programs in Communities


Youth empowerment programs can have an incredible impact on their communities as they support students, increase access to opportunity, and remove barriers to education and achievement.

Ultimately, the goal of community programs for youth is to authentically engage and empower vulnerable children for a better future. Some programs advocate for healthy eating and physical activity as part of reducing childhood obesity. Others offer support to LGBTQ kids, work to lift children out of poverty, develop workforce training, or implement violence and bullying prevention activities.

Examples of Youth Empowerment Programs

Every state, county, or city is home to a program designed to help kids in that community, and each has a slightly different approach to speak to the needs of their area.

The Georgia Department of Human Services created their Youth Empowerment Series to provide access to resources that offer support and empower Georgians and their families. To accomplish this goal, kids are encouraged to be the “blueprint for change” in their communities and leaders are developed through workshops, networking, and experiences to “grow a generation of young trailblazers.”[1]

The Youth Action Research for Prevention (YARP) program was designed to train kids as a group to use research to understand their community better. YARP engages the students to use data to then develop social action plans and activities in the community.[2] The resulting engagement in community activism has had an effect on both behavior and effectiveness for individuals and the community.[3]

The Youth Empowerment Program in Louisiana was founded to “engage underserved young people through community-based education, mentoring, and employment readiness programs to help them develop skills and strengthen ties to family and community.”[4] Like many non-profit groups leading empowerment programs, they aim to create a community where all children “have access to the opportunities, skills, resources, and relationships they need to actualize their potential.”[5]

The United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, funds a demonstration project called the Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) created to address unhealthy behaviors in minority at-risk youth. “YEP provides resources to those who need them most, minority youth who live in some of the most high-risk areas in the country. At its heart, this program is helping them make better lifestyle choices that result in healthier, happier lives,” explains Dr. Paula E. Papanek, founding director of the Program of Exercise Science in the Department of Physical Therapy at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[6]

Across the country, 17 YEP grantees offer innovative approaches to promote healthy lifestyles and life choices in minority youth, each for a three-year grant cycle.[7] The University of Utah worked with 30 at-risk teen mothers through a daily one-hour life skills training and after-school mentoring and tutoring program. They have seen both teen birth rates and STI rates lower significantly in their community indicating a decrease in risky sexual behaviors through direct educational programming in reproductive health and empowerment.[8]

Funding for Youth Empowerment Programs

Youth empowerment programs are designed to increase access to resources to improve children’s lives. If you have a plan for your community but aren’t sure where to find funds to develop your program, several youth empowerment program grants are available. For instance, Grants.gov Youth Funding Opportunity Search Tool allows organizations to search a wide range of funding opportunities for youth-related programs, and the list of searchable grant opportunities is updated daily. The Global Youth Empowerment Fund provides funding to community projects, especially those led by youth-led organizations, that “provide sustainable solutions to local challenges in communities around the world.”

Data for Grant Proposals and Evaluations

As part of the application process, many federally-funded grants require organizations or community coalitions to have a detailed plan in place on how you will establish baselines, track success, and report on results. You may be required to submit this information on a regular schedule to show progress and monitor outcomes. Survey data can be used for both as well as encouraging increased community support through matching funds and participation in programs. If your community-based coalition has received or is applying for a grant that requires data measurement and reporting, Pride Surveys can help.

Why Work with a School and Student Survey Company?

The benefit of working with a survey company is that we can gather fact-based data and information through anonymous and effective survey tools. With this information, educators, parents, PTAs, and coalitions are in a better position to secure future funding from a variety of sources to support their programs.

Presenting a survey to students can feel daunting especially when it comes to developing survey question ideas for high school students, but Pride Surveys has been providing research-quality data for schools and communities since 1980.

Our Pride Survey for Grades 6-12 is our longest-running and must-used survey with more than 8 million respondents over the last 35 years. This comprehensive questionnaire for students collects data regarding alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, discipline problems at and outside of school, personal information, academic achievement, family life, and more. Using this student behavior and school climate survey, we have been able to track significant longitudinal data and trends, and have released multiple national data sets, allowing our customers to compare their local data with our national data. As you develop your community youth empowerment programs, this data can be incredibly valuable for many reasons.

Please browse through the different types of student surveys we offer and find out why more than 14 million students, parents, and faculty members have responded to Pride Surveys. Questions? Please call us today at 800-279-6361 or fill out our quick online contact form.


[1] “The Youth Empowerment Series (YES).” Retrieved 1 February 2019 at https://dhs.georgia.gov/youth-empowerment-series-yes

[2] “Youth Action Research for Prevention: A Multi-level Intervention Designed to Increase Efficacy and Empowerment Among Urban Youth.” Retrieved 1 February 2019 at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10464-009-9231-2

[3] Ibid.

[4] “What We Believe.” Retrieved 1 February 2019 at http://youthempowermentproject.org/who-we-are/what-we-believe/

[5] Ibid.

[6] “The Youth Empowerment Program: Promoting Health Behaviors in Minority Youth.” Retrieved 1 February 2019 at https://www.marquette.edu/youth-empowerment-program/_media/downloads/yep.pdf

[7] “About the Youth Empowerment Program.” Retrieved 1 February 2019 at https://www.marquette.edu/youth-empowerment-program/about.shtml

[8] “Reproductive Health.” Retrieved 1 February 2019 at https://www.marquette.edu/youth-empowerment-program/reproductive_health.shtml

Teen Mental Health: Self-Harm

From the outside looking in, self-harm can be a frightening and puzzling behavior – and one that’s difficult to understand. It may be surprising to learn that it’s not always driven by suicidal tendencies. In fact, teens that self-injure probably don’t intend to die but rather use it as a coping mechanism.[1] However, studies have shown that teens and tweens who engaging in self-harming behavior have a higher mortality rate.[2] For these reasons and many others, it’s important to know both how to identify symptoms of self-harm and how to address them.

What is self-harm?

Psychology Today defines self-harm as “the act of deliberately inflicting pain or damage to your own body.[3]” If a teen or tween is scratching, cutting, hitting, biting or burning themselves to cause pain, these would all be considered signs of self-harm. However, less talked about forms of self-harm can include deliberately ingesting toxic levels of alcohol or drugs or participating in other risky behavior, such as unprotected sex. Statistics indicate about 17% of teens and tweens will engage in self-harming behavior at least once.[4] And while girls may develop self-harming behaviors earlier, adolescent boys are responsible for the overall highest incidences of self-harming behavior.[5]

What causes self-harm in teens and tweens?

Adolescents are undoubtedly struggling with a difficult time, and with the rise in cyberbullying and ongoing school bullying, it’s easy to question if school climate and other situational triggers factors can be the culprit behind self-harming behaviors. Pediatricians are often reluctant to isolate any one cause, though. In some cases, self-injury can be soothing to teens with underlying mental health issues.[6] Teens or tweens also may engage in self-harm as a way to communicate an unmet need to parents or peers.[7] A school climate survey can help you learn more directly from students about what may be troubling them.

How to look for symptoms of self-harm in teens and tweens

According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of self-harm include:

• Scars, often in patterns
• Fresh cuts, scratches, bruises, bite marks or other wounds
• Excessive rubbing of an area to create a burn
• Keeping sharp objects on hand
• Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather
• Frequent reports of accidental injury
• Difficulties in interpersonal relationships
• Behavioral and emotional instability, impulsivity and unpredictability
• Statements of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness[8]

When considering self-harm through excessive alcohol consumption or illicit drug use, however, student perceptions can complicate symptoms. While the Centers for Disease Control define binge drinking as having more than four or five drinks[9], a student survey from Pride Surveys suggests almost 32% of students do not believe consuming five or more drinks once or twice per week puts them at risk of harming themselves.[10] So, it’s important when talking to teens and tweens about self-harm to discuss whether they are aware of the harmful effects of excessive consumption.

How to approach teens or tweens who may be engaging in self-harm

When addressing any issue related to teen mental health, it’s always best to begin with empathy. Worry less about “why,” and focus more on how you can help the individual feel heard and cared for.[11] Approaching them privately and in an environment where they already feel safe is the best method.  A student survey conducted by Pride Survey found that at school middle and high school students feel safest when in the classroom[12].

Depending on the severity of the self-harm, you may not feel that you have the skills or training to address the behavior. If that is the case, it’s best to engage a mental health professional. And if you believe that someone is in imminent danger, do not hesitate to take them to a healthcare professional or the emergency room. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) offers free, 24/7 support that is completely confidential[13]

Since 1980, Pride Surveys has been providing research-quality data for schools and communities to study student mental health. Our Social, Emotional and Bullying Behavior Survey (SEBBS) collects data that assess problem behaviors that affect student engagement such as increased absenteeism, lower academic achievement and increased substance abuse. The Pride Surveys Learning Environment Survey is also recommended as a student evaluation tool for grades 6-12 because of its powerful reporting system and examination of current issues in education such as student mental health, bullying, teen suicide, student learning and more.

The benefit of working with a survey company is that we can gather fact-based data and information through anonymous and effective survey tools. With this information, educators, parents, PTAs and community coalitions are in a better position to address mental health issues in their schools and secure future funding from a variety of sources to support their programs.

Please browse through the different types of student surveys we offer and find out why more than 14 million students, parents, and faculty members have responded to Pride Surveys. Questions? Please call us at 800-279-6361 or contact us today.




[1] “Understanding Self-Injury/Self-Harm.” Retrieved 30 January 2019 at http://teenmentalhealth.org/understanding-self-injury-self-harm/

[2] “Suicide After Deliberate Self-Harm in Adolescents and Young Adults.” Retrieved 30 January 2019 at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/141/4/e20173517

[3] “Self-Harm.” Retrieved 30 January 2019 at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/self-harm

[4] “Who self-injures?” Retrieved 30 January 2019 at https://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/07-08/who-self-injures.aspx

[5] “Self-Harm.” Retrieved 30 January 2019 at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/self-harm

[6] “Chapter 191: Self-Harm.” Retrieved 30 January 2019 at https://pediatriccare.solutions.aap.org/chapter.aspx?sectionid=109663654&bookid=1626

[7]“Chapter 191: Self-Harm” Retrieved 30 January 2019 at https://pediatriccare.solutions.aap.org/chapter.aspx?sectionid=109663654&bookid=1626

[8] “Self-injury/cutting.” Retrieved 30 January 2019 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/self-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20350950

[9] “Fact Sheets- Binge Drinking.” Retrieved 30 January 2019 at https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm

[10] Pride Surveys Questionnaire for Grades 6 thru 12 2016-17, Pride National Summary, October 19, 2017

[11] “Self-injury/cutting.” Retrieved 30 January 2019 at


[12] Pride Surveys Questionnaire for Grades 6 thru 12 2016-17, Pride National Summary, October 19, 2017

[13] “National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Homepage.” Retrieved 30 January 2019 at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Tween & Teen Mental Health: ADHD

We continue our series about adolescent mental health because understanding the nuances of ADHD and teen mental health can help educators make a meaningful difference in a child’s life.

What is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder characterized by “a combination of inattentiveness, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior.”[1]

ADHD can appear as fidgeting or forgetfulness or be misunderstood as laziness or disruptiveness. The symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe. And, more often than not, ADHD can be present with other conditions, including disorders related to learning and conduct as well as anxiety and depression.[2] There are different forms of ADHD, and each can affect school performance, friendships, or behavior at home.

ADHD can manifest in three main subtypes:

•  Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: Children may feel restless, interrupt, fidget, have a need to stay busy, and may try to do several things at once. They may act before they think.[3]
•  Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: The child may appear to be working while sitting quietly, but may be having trouble focusing on any one thing and may get bored with a task after only a few minutes.[4]
•  Combined Presentation: Children who exhibit a combination of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention have all of the above symptoms.[5]

Early diagnosis can help children reach their full potential since treatment for ADHD is more effective for adolescents.[6] A key factor in determining if an adolescent meets the criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD is whether these symptoms emerged before the age of seven and now impede his or her ability to function on a daily basis in two or more places, often school and home.[7]

ADHD and Teen Mental Health

When children are referred to mental health resources, ADHD is one of the most common reasons since it affects about 8% of children.[8] Both boys and girls are affected by ADHD, but boys are three to four times more likely to experience the disorder.[9]

Teens and tweens with ADHD are more likely to experience other mental disorders:

• Approximately 50% of kids with ADHD may also have oppositional defiant disorder
• Approximately 25% of kids with ADHD may also have an anxiety disorder
• Approximately 30% of kids with ADHD may also have depression
• Approximately 20% of kids with ADHD may also have bipolar disorder[10]

Students with ADHD may also struggle when it comes to relationships with their peers. Research indicates about 50% of adolescents with the disorder may have fewer friendships and are more likely to be ignored or excluded by classmates. They are also more prone to bullying – or to even bully others. This may be tied to the impulsive behaviors associated with ADHD or inability to listen or pick up on social clues.[11]

ADHD and Substance Abuse

Some studies have found that adolescents with ADHD are more likely to “misuse alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit substances” when compared with children without the disorder.[12]

For instance, in an examination of kids who use marijuana, ADHD occurred in 40–50% of both girls and boys.[13] Adolescents with untreated or undiagnosed ADHD may also be at risk for substance abuse. Research indicates that children treated for ADHD have “lower rates of substance abuse than children who go untreated.”[14]

Middle School and ADHD Students

Middle school can be a difficult transition for any student, but especially those with emerging ADHD symptoms. ADHD inattentive type often goes undetected until middle school.[15] Moving from the pace of elementary school to a less structured setting like middle school where tweens need to utilize organization and preparation to better keep up can be challenging for any student. But for ones struggling with inattentiveness, impulsive or hyperactive behaviors, it can feel nearly impossible to make this adjustment smoothly.  This is where educators can help make the difference since they are interacting with students daily and can observe the changes.

Great strides have been made in understanding ADHD and developing school-based mental health interventions. There is still, however, a need to further develop these programs and processes to provide additional resources and training for administrators, teachers, and staff. For many schools, those resources can come in the form of carefully collected information.

Since 1980, Pride Surveys has been providing research-quality data for schools and communities to study student mental health. Our Social, Emotional and Bullying Behavior Survey collects data that assess middle school problem behaviors that affect student engagement. Using SEBBS, schools can determine the underlying causes of increased absenteeism, lower academic achievement, and increased substance abuse. The Pride Learning Environment Survey is also recommended as a student evaluation tool for grades 6-12 because of its powerful reporting system and examination of current issues in education such as student mental health, teacher involvement, student learning and more.

The benefit of working with a survey company is that we can gather fact-based data and information through anonymous and effective survey tools. With this information, educators, parents, PTAs and coalitions are in a better position to fight bullying and secure future funding from a variety of sources to support their programs.

Please browse through the different types of student surveys we offer and find out why more than 14 million students, parents, and faculty members have responded to Pride Surveys. Questions? Please call us today at 800-279-6361 or fill out our quick online contact form.



[1] “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Teen” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/attention-deficithyperactivity-disorder-teen

[2] “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Other Concerns & Conditions.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/conditions.html

[3] “Childhood & Teenager ADHD Symptoms.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at https://psychcentral.com/disorders/childhood-adhd/childhood-teenager-adhd-symptoms/

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “AD/HD and Kids” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at  http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/adhd-and-kids

[7] “ADHD Inattentive Type in Tweens Part I: Diagnosis.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lets-talk-tween/201308/adhd-inattentive-type-in-tweens-part-i-diagnosis-1

[8] “How common is attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder? Towards resolution of the controversy: results from a population-based study.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15176722

[9] “AD/HD and Kids” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at  http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/adhd-and-kids

[10] “AD/HD and Kids” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at  http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/adhd-and-kids

[11] “ADHD in Teenagers.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at https://childmind.org/article/adhd-in-teenagers/

[12] “Substance-use disorders in adolescents and adults with ADHD: focus on treatment.“ Retrieved 28 October 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3480177/.

[13] “History and significance of childhood attention deficit disorder in treatment-seeking cocaine abusers.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8485984

[14] “AD/HD and Kids” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at  http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/adhd-and-kids

[15] “ADHD Inattentive Type in Tweens Part I: Diagnosis.” Retrieved 26 October 2018 at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lets-talk-tween/201308/adhd-inattentive-type-in-tweens-part-i-diagnosis-1


Risky Student Behaviors and Academic Achievement

Risk-taking declines between adolescence and adulthood, but the high school years remain a time of increased susceptibility to risky and reckless behavior.[1] What is the relationship between these behaviors and academic success? Not surprisingly, it isn’t good, but there is some fascinating research being done on the subject and tremendous data to be collected to learn more.

Teens & Risk Factors to Academic Success

As part of their Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), the CDC identifies the following as risky student health behaviors: alcohol and drug use, sexual risk behaviors and violence, teen pregnancy, tobacco use, and youth violence. A recent study published in the American Journal of Health Economics looked at the correlation between some of these behaviors (specifically drinking, smoking, and marijuana use) and stringent math and science high-school graduation requirements.[2] Their results suggest that a demanding curriculum could be a potential tool to curb alcohol consumption among high-school students, especially males and non-white students.[3]

In our own Risk and Protective Factor Student Perception Survey, Pride Surveys has crafted a questionnaire with one of the original authors of the communities that care youth survey to measure the most significant risk and protective factors related to impactful youth behaviors. It’s a hybrid of two of our other student surveys, Communities That Care (CTC) Youth Survey and the Pride Questionnaire for Grades 6 to 12, and asks about the incidence of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use for both the last 30 days and lifetime data including:

  • Where alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use occurred
  • When alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use occurred
  • Perceived availability of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
  • Perceived risk of drugs
  • Perception of friends’ disapproval and parents’ disapproval

Results from the 2015-16 Pride Surveys Questionnaire for Grades 6-12 revealed that 40% of students who responded that they never make good grades also used an illicit drug. By contrast, only 11.4% of those who make good grades “a lot” reported using an illicit drug. 52.9% of respondents who stated that they get in trouble at school “a lot” reported using an illicit drug. Of those that never get into trouble at school, 11.6% use an illicit drug.

Why Do Teens Engage in Risky Behaviors?

In The Power of the Adolescent Brain, author Thomas Armstrong explains that around the age of 15, teens can make decisions as competently as adults except when they’re with their peers, experiencing emotional overstimulation, or under social pressure.[4] In those situations, their decision-making skills become less reliable. Is this related to the concept that the reward center of the brain motivates and controls teenage behaviors? Perhaps. Because the decision-making portion of the brain isn’t fully developed until about the age of 25, teens can sometimes struggle to make good decisions as their brain continues to mature.[5] Before this information came to light though, it was believed that raging hormones ran a teen’s life through their adolescent years. Now there is new research by Dr. Dan Romer at the University of Pennsylvania suggesting that, instead, teenagers may be wired to seek out risk to gain experience.[6] Dr. Romer argues that risk-seeking would be significantly more common if brain function were to blame and that some teens make risky choices simply to gain experience. In other words, their main job during adolescence is to discover where they fit in the world through exploration and experimentation.

Bad Outcomes from Teen Behavior

One study connected early sexual activity and alcohol use with “bad adult outcomes” finding that the earlier a teen engages in an activity, the more likely that teen is to face consequences of the behavior as an adult including alcoholism.[7] Another study found that healthy eating and participating in team sports had a positive impact on academic outcomes for students while the effects of “alcohol use, smoking, early sexual intercourse, bullying, and certain screen time behaviors were overall negative.”[8]

It has also recently been suggested that sleep habits among teens are a negative factor in their academic performance. Researchers found that lack of sleep on the weekend combined with early mornings for school easily led to a detrimental accumulation of sleep debt during the school week.[9] As a result, sleeplessness is now being cited as a risk factor that can lead to and poor school performance.[10] Many have suggested that school start times should be adjusted to better suit the adolescent brain – with some benefit to the faculty and staff as well, certainly.

The behavior of teenagers is complex, and it’s important to understand the whys and hows so we can help prepare them for the future and keep them away from serious risk. The benefit of working with a survey company to find out these answers is that we can anonymously and effectively ask the difficult questions through multiple survey tools. Survey results can offer insights into the intersection of risk and academic success including the learning environment and school climate.

Please browse through the different types of scalable student surveys we offer and find out why more than 13.9 million students, parents, and faculty members have responded to Pride Surveys. Questions? Please call us today at 800-279-6361 or fill out our quick online contact form.



[1] “A Social Neuroscience Perspective on Adolescent Risk-Taking.” Retrieved 28 May 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2396566/

[2] “The Effects of Graduation Requirements on Risky Health Behaviors of High School Students.” Retrieved 28 ay 2018 at https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/ajhe_a_00112

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Power of the Adolescent Brain.” Retrieved 28 May 2018 at http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/116017/chapters/The-Amazing-Adolescent-Brain.aspx

[5] “Understanding the Teen Brain.” Retrieved 28 May 2018 at https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=3051

[6] “Why Teens Take Risks: It’s Not a Deficit in Brain Development.” Retrieved 28 May 2018 at https://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/why-teens-take-risks-its-not-a-deficit-in-brain-development/

[7] “Long-Term Impact of Adolescent Risky Behaviors and Family Environment.” Retrieved 28 May 2018 at https://aspe.hhs.gov/execsum/long-term-impact-adolescent-risky-behaviors-and-family-environment

[8] “The Effects of Adolescent Health-Related Behavior in Academic Performance.” Retrieved 28 May 2018 at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3102/0034654313518441?journalCode=rera

[9] “Sleep Habits, academic performance, and the adolescent brain structure.” Retrieved 28 May 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5299428/

[10] Ibid.

Shedding Light on The Darkness – Adolescent Suicide

Guest Post from Jumo Health

When we talk about health, it’s important to remember that not all pain is physical and not all wounds are visible. Mental health is just as important as physical health. In fact, the two are parallel. The entire body relies on a healthy mental well-being to function properly.

Since 1949, May has been observed as Mental Health Month.

Individuals and organizations across the world join together to spread awareness about mental health in the effort to break the stigma that often surrounds the topic. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, stigma has been characterized as quite possibly the biggest barrier to mental health care. This stigma prevents itself as stereotypes or negative beliefs toward mental illness, including perceptions that people with mental illnesses are different, crazy, or even dangerous.

Mental Health Awareness Month is a proactive way to stay involved in the conversation surrounding mental health. It’s critical to raise awareness and educate others to reduce misconceptions and shaming regarding mental health. If done right, the conversations that we facilitate have the potential to save lives.

The relationship between mental health and suicide is remarkably important, especially amongst adolescents. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34. Not everyone with a mental illness has attempted suicide. However, over 90 percent of those who have died from suicide have been diagnosed with a mental illness, usually depression.

In the 2016 Pride Survey national database nearly one hundred thousand students in grades six through 12 were asked if they had thought about suicide and 11.6 percent of students in grades 6-8 and 17.4 percent of 9th through 12th graders responded that they had thought about committing suicide sometimes, often or a lot.

The data also show a strong correlation between suicide and substance use and abuse with those who think about suicide twice to three times as likely to have used alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and meth. Some things that can contribute to thoughts of suicide are addiction, harassment, and difficult family situations which can all lead to depression and feelings of helplessness in teens and youth.

How can you help a teen struggling with mental illness?

Being diagnosed with a mental illness can be scary and overwhelming, but it’s important for teens to know that help is always available. Therapy, medication, and support groups are great resources to utilize to combat through tough emotional times.

You can visit Psychology Today to find a local therapist and filter through categories such as insurances, diagnoses, gender, and age. Or, if the need for help is an urgent matter, teens can text “TEEN” to 839863 between 6:00 – 9:00 pm PST to speak to others their age in order to work through problems on a more relatable basis.

In addition, Jumo Health, a health education resource for kids and families, is an excellent resource for anyone looking to become better educated on mental illness. Not sure where to start? There is a depression discussion guide available that provides questions designed to help guide conversation with a doctor after a diagnosis.

While knowing national statistics about children’s mental health is certainly helpful, having accurate, actionable data from within your community can be even more impactful. At Pride Surveys, we have been helping schools and coalitions collect meaningful data about youth in their communities for over thirty years. We offer a range of different survey products covering mental health as well as substance abuse, school climate, bullying, and more. Questions? Please call Pride Surveys today at 800-279-6361 or fill out our quick online contact form.









Bullying in the Learning Environment

Bullying in school isn’t anything new, but it does seem that students today are faced with a more challenging learning environment with increased anxiety, stress, and risk. So, let’s talk about bullying and the impact it can have on learning, our schools, and our kids.

Bullying Statistics in the Learning Environment

Physical and mental health issues related to bullying in schools are significant concerns facing today’s students. In 2015, 20% of students reported being bullied.[1] As reported in Pride Surveys’ 2015-2016 national data set, nearly 21% of middle school students and 21% of high school students reported threatening to harm another student. Related points from the same data set showed that 5% of 6th through 8th-grade students “think of suicide often or a lot,” with the corresponding percentage jumping to 8% for students in 9th-12th grade. Research suggests there is a connection between suicidal thoughts and behaviors for both the bully and bullied suggesting that both perpetrator and target are at particularly high risk for psychological distress.[2] That makes for a challenging school environment for everyone.

More recent figures on bullying do reflect a downward trend from 2005 when 28% of students reported being bullied.[3] The focus on talking about, standing up to and ending bullying is having an impact, but the 34% of self-identified gay, lesbian, or bisexual students who reported in 2015 they had been bullied on school property during the previous 12 months, may question if it’s getting any better for them.[4]

Bullies often focus on children who are different in some way: LGBT youth, kids with disabilities or socially isolated children may be at an increased risk of being bullied. Children who are underweight or overweight can also be targets. Recent studies show that students on the autism spectrum can be targets.[5] Students who experience bullying are at heightened risk for “poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression.”[6]

Safety is essential for productive learning. When children feel unsafe in school, there are implications not only for those schools but also in their neighborhoods and communities. The probability of increased involvement in risky behaviors because kids feel unsafe warrants an urgent and carefully-planned course of action.[7] In 2015, about 5% of students ages 12–18 reported that they avoided at least one school activity or class or a place in school during the previous school year because they thought someone might harass, assault or abuse them.[8]

Types of Bullying

There are four types of bullying: verbal, physical, social and cyberbullying. Social bullying deliberately excludes someone from the group or uses manipulation of higher social standing to lower someone else’s. Cyberbullying has rapidly emerged in the internet age as a means of aggression via social media, texts or chats to threaten and harass. While physical and verbal bullying are more overt, social bullying and cyberbullying can often be nearly invisible.[9]

Peer Bullying Intervention

Teachers and administrators frequently find out about bullying when it can seem too late – after the abuse has intensified to a distressing level. However, initiatives to intervene or prevent bullying behaviors can help the learning environment to be safer. In fact, school-based anti-bullying programs can decrease incidents by up to 25%.[10] Bystanders can make a difference in bullying: studies have shown that having a peer intervene on behalf of the student being bullied can stop 57% of situations.[11] Students report that support from their peers such as helping him or her get away, giving advice, or spending time talking were helpful actions.[12] This data indicates teaching students to help one another can have as much or more of an impact than educators and administrators intervening when it comes to stopping bullying behaviors and safeguarding the learning environment.

 Research has indicated that discrimination and prejudice can be countered when educational environments incorporate more understanding, critical thinking, and positive self-esteem in students. Educators that foster thoughtful conversations about respect and tolerance every day in school can create more inclusive, respectful classrooms.[13] The Anti-Defamation League offers resources for educators on creating an anti-bias school setting.

What Can You Do if You Think Bullying is Negatively Impacting Your Learning Environment?

So, if you believe bullying is impacting learning in your school, what can you do? Since 1980, Pride Surveys has been providing research-quality data that can be easily used by educators, parents, and others at the school and community level to study and monitor violent, threatening, and bullying behaviors, and student mental health. We offer four different scientifically proven student surveys that are designed to measure various aspects of student behavior and perceptions related to bullying, mental health, and more.

The Pride Learning Environment Survey is highly-recommended as a student evaluation tool for grades 6-12 because of its effective examination of current issues facing educators and education. These surveys results give insight into the intersection of risk and academic success in the education setting. In fact, Pride Surveys’ learning environment questionnaire has been included in the School Climate Survey Compendium of the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments as a valid instrument to assist educators in identifying and assessing their conditions for learning conditions. It’s also one of the National Outcomes Measurement System items required as benchmarks for many grant awards.

Our Social, Emotional and Bullying Behavior Survey collects data that assess middle school students’ bullying perceptions and problem behaviors that affect student engagement. Using SEBBS, schools can determine underlying causes for increased absenteeism, lower academic achievement, and increased substance abuse.

The benefit of choosing a survey company is that we take the guesswork out of the surveying process to ask the difficult questions. Browse the different types of scalable student surveys we offer and find out why more than 13.9 million students, parents, and faculty members have responded to Pride Surveys. Questions? Please call us today at 800-279-6361 or fill out our quick online contact form.



[1] “Student Reports of Bullying: Results from the 2015 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2017015

[2] “Understanding the Link Between Bullying and Suicide.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://theconversation.com/understanding-the-link-between-bullying-and-suicide-39037

[3] “New Data Show a Decline in School=based Bullying.” Retrieved 21 May at https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/new-data-show-decline-school-based-bullying

[4] “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at  https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017064.pdf

[5] “Are You an Easy Target for Bullies?” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201301/are-you-easy-target-bullies

[6] “Understanding Bullying.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying_factsheet.pdf

[7] “Students Feeling Unsafe in School: Fifth Graders’ Experiences.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3103144/

[8] “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at  https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017064.pdf

[9] “Creating Control: Managing Bullying in the Classroom.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://online.concordia.edu/education/bullying-in-the-classroom/

[10] “Student Bullying: Overview of Research, Federal Initiatives, and Legal Issues.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at  https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43254.pdf

[11] “Naturalistic Observations of Peer Interventions in Bullying.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at http://bullylab.com/Portals/0/Naturalistic%20observations%20of%20peer%20interventions%20in%20bullying.pdf

[12] “The Youth Voice Project.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at http://njbullying.org/documents/YVPMarch2010.pdf

[13] Creating an Anti-Bias Learning Environment.” Retrieved 21 May 2018 at https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/creating-an-anti-bias-learning-environment