Wood County, known for its proactive approach to youth well-being, is facing new challenges as the results of a recent survey conducted by the Wood County Educational Service Center are unveiled. While the community celebrates a decrease in substance abuse rates post-pandemic, concerns arise as the survey reveals a significant rise in gaming and gambling activities among young people. These findings shed light on the changing behaviors of youth, prompting school leaders to take immediate action.

The survey’s encouraging results indicate that the collective efforts of schools, parents, and the community have contributed to a decline in substance abuse rates among youth in Wood County. This positive trend reflects the hard work put into awareness campaigns and prevention programs throughout the region. However, amidst the celebrations, it is crucial not to overlook the new challenges that have arisen in the wake of the pandemic.

One of the most alarming findings from the survey is the increase in gaming and gambling activities among young people. The data reveals that many children now spend two hours or more gaming every day, with sports betting witnessing a significant surge among eleventh and twelfth-grade males. These trends raise concerns about the potential negative impact on academic performance, mental health, and overall well-being.

Recognizing the importance of addressing these emerging issues head-on, the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board have played a pivotal role in funding the survey. The data collected provides schools with crucial insights to identify and address problems within their own communities. By acknowledging the existence of these challenges, school leaders can develop targeted interventions and support systems for students in need.

Bill Ivoska, a researcher working for the Wood County Educational Service Center, highlights the significance of the survey results in implementing effective programming. The data provides valuable insights into the prevalence and severity of gaming, gambling, and substance use among young people. By tailoring prevention and intervention initiatives based on this information, schools can make a tangible difference in the lives of their students.

Moreover, the survey reveals a positive development in the mental health of youth in Wood County. Rates of severe mental health issues and suicide attempts have declined, indicating progress in the well-being of young people. However, it is important to note that mental health improvement may not be uniform across all age groups. While the percentage of teenagers reporting severe and intense mental health issues decreased in 2024, school leaders must remain vigilant and proactive in addressing mental health concerns.

The comprehensive survey covers approximately 10,000 children from fifth to twelfth grade, ensuring that the data reflects the experiences of young people throughout their educational journey. This approach enables schools to implement age-appropriate interventions and support systems that cater to the unique needs of each age group.

To foster collaboration and information sharing, the Wood County Educational Service Center disseminates the survey data to school leaders in nine school districts across Wood County. By creating a collective understanding of the challenges faced by young people, educators can work together to develop comprehensive strategies that prioritize the well-being and success of their students.

While the decline in substance abuse rates is a notable achievement, the rise in gaming and gambling activities among youth demands immediate attention. It is essential for school leaders, parents, and the community to come together to address these emerging challenges. By incorporating preventive education, providing counseling resources, and fostering open conversations about responsible gaming and gambling practices, young people can be equipped with the knowledge and support necessary to make informed choices.

In conclusion, the bi-annual survey on addiction and mental health in Wood County has provided valuable insights into the changing behaviors of youth. While substance abuse rates have declined, the rise in gaming and gambling activities among young people demands immediate attention. The survey results serve as a call to action for school leaders to implement targeted interventions and support systems to ensure the well-being and success of their students. By acknowledging and addressing these challenges, Wood County can continue to empower its youth to thrive in a rapidly changing world.