Depression, Suicide Attempts, Risky Sex response of Niagara Falls’ youth to life in state’s “most violent” city

     The recently-released FBI report “Crime in the United States” singled out the city of Niagara Falls as having the highest rate of violent crime in all of New York State. During 2015, residents experienced 555 violent crimes, characterized as robbery, rape, murder and assault, a per capita rate of over one violent crime for every hundred people who live here.
     According to another 2015 study, this one carried out under the auspices of the federal Centers for Disease Control, named the “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey”, Niagara Falls middle and high school students do their share of contributing to the distressing statistics, especially in the instances of assault and rape, as we reported last week.
     The CDC survey also examined the psychological effects on our young people from living in such a violent environment where, in addition to all the crime, political corruption is rife and economic opportunities are nil.
     For example, as compared to the state average, Niagara Falls High School students suffer from higher rates of suicide attempts (including those serious enough to require medical treatment), having feelings of sadness and hopelessness, and risky sexual behaviors, including having sex, early initiation of sex, being physically forced to have sex and having had multiple sexual partners.
Particularly striking were the 30.1% who responded that they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row (so that they stopped doing some usual activities, at some point during the 12 months before the survey) as compared to the state average of 23.8%. In addition, 19.2% seriously considered attempting suicide in the year leading up to the survey, far exceeding the state’s 13.7%.
     In other words, nearly one in three of Niagara Falls young people, with their whole lives ahead of them, reported that they were depressed for extended periods of time, with nearly one in five contemplating suicide. Over one in ten (10.4%) reported that they had attempted suicide, with 3.7% requiring medical treatment as a result, during the year leading up to the survey.
     The Youth Survey was also conducted at Gaskill and LaSalle Prep schools, and revealed that 21.9% of middle schoolers here had seriously thought about killing themselves, 14.5% had made a plan about how they would do it and 9.5% had actually attempted suicide.
     City Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti once referred to the lack of comprehensive sexuality education in Niagara Falls schools as “criminal”, a word she subsequently retracted and apologized for. In light of some of the numbers reported by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, however, she was probably justified in excoriating the school district over its shortcomings when it comes to educating young people on how to avoid sexually-transmitted infections (STI’s) and unwanted pregnancies.
     For example, Niagara Falls high school students exceeded state averages when it came to all of the following categories: Ever had sexual intercourse (42.6%), had sexual intercourse before age 13 years of age(6.5%), have had sexual intercourse with four or more persons (14.3%), recently sexually active (had sexual intercourse during the 3 months before the survey, 32.8%), did not use a condom during last sexual intercourse (40.0%) and did not use birth control pills to prevent pregnancy before last sexual intercourse (83.7%).
     According to New York State Health Department statistics, for three of four Niagara Falls zip codes, 14301, 14303 and 14305, teen pregnancy rates are higher (97.5, 95.2 and 63.2 per thousand) compared to the state average 33.3, as are teen birth rates (68.3, 59.5 and 39.0, respectively) compared to the state average of 21.7 per thousand.
     Of course, the difference between the Niagara Falls teen pregnancy average rate for those three zip codes, 85.3 pregnancies per thousand teens, and the number of births, 55.6, is that for every thousand young women in Niagara Falls, thirty got abortions.
     The members of the Niagara Falls City School District Board of Education are James Cancemi (President), Robert M. Restaino, Ron Barstys, Earl F. Bass, Rev. Kevin Dobbs, Arthur “Art” Jocoy Jr., Anthony Paretto, Russell Petrozzi and Nick Vilardo. In January, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster will be commencing his tenth year in office.
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