IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WZMQ) – In a recent survey conducted by the Dickinson-Iron Health Department, alarming statistics have emerged, shining a spotlight on the mental health and well-being of teenagers in the area. A panel of local stakeholders in the community recently met with health department staff to prioritize health needs in the community.
The stakeholders examined findings from the department’s most recent Community Health Improvement Plan Assessment, coupled with the findings from a comprehensive youth survey, and the Dickinson Iron Community Services agency, DICSA’s Community Health needs assessment. The health department has now shifted its primary focus towards addressing the pressing needs of the younger generation. This shift in attention has led to the initiation of a new survey conducted last weekend at the Gus Macker basketball tournament, which provided valuable insights into the struggles and aspirations of local youth.
According to Angela Applekamp, the Health Department’s Community Services Director, the responses from the survey shed light on the desires and needs of local teens. Many of them expressed a yearning for more meaningful opportunities, beyond just working in fast-food establishments to earn money. They desired internships and jobs that would allow them to explore their future career paths.
“The way they answered questions, you can kind of tell who answered across the board. So a lot of the ones that put job opportunities, they kind of revered towards being able to do some internship. Not just working in a fast-food to make money, but working into some kind of job that allowed them to see kind of what they would want to do with their future,” informed Applekamp.
The health department’s recent findings have raised concerns regarding various risk factors faced by teenagers in Dickinson and Iron counties. Depressive feelings, which serve as a precursor to suicide risk, were found to be more prevalent among the youth in these areas compared to the statewide statistics in Michigan. Furthermore, the survey highlighted the increased prevalence of vaping, consumption of energy drinks, alcohol use, substance misuse, and mental health concerns among the youth.
In addition to these distressing findings, the survey added more weight to the problem that Dickinson and Iron Counties has regarding lack of transportation. DICSA provided a report of findings last fall in their community needs assessment, showcasing a lack of transportation among one of the biggest longstanding issues that the community currently faces. The health department’s recent youth survey further emphasized this issue. This barrier adds to the existing challenges faced by the community in addressing the pressing needs of the younger generation.
“We made a QR code, so that the kids could scan it easily on their phones, and answer a couple of questions. One of those questions was what barriers are you facing to attend anything that’s going on in our community. Travel was one of those answers”
The Dickinson-Iron Health Department is now working tirelessly to develop strategies and initiatives aimed at providing better support and resources for the youth. By identifying the risk factors and concerns highlighted in the survey, they hope to implement targeted interventions to improve the overall well-being of teenagers in the area.
The community as a whole is urged to come together and support these efforts, recognizing the importance of providing meaningful opportunities and addressing mental health concerns. Another recent survey provided to the health department that offers confidential assessments to the youth is conducted every two years in the counties, and the 2022 findings in that survey report that 6th-8th graders experience significantly higher symptoms of depression compared to overall Michigan statistics. Alarmingly, 8th graders reported higher than the Michigan average for attempted suicide within the last 12 months in the 2022 report. It is crucial to prioritize the needs of the youth, ensuring that they have access to the resources and support necessary to navigate the challenges they face in today’s world.
In addition to the concerning findings already mentioned, the health department has also discovered that marijuana use rates among teenagers in Dickinson and Iron counties surpass both the state of Michigan and national averages. Compared with overall Michigan statistics which are 23%, 10th graders in the two counties are at 26.4%, whereas 12th graders are at 33.1%. 10th and 12th graders are also reporting slightly higher than the Michigan average for illicit drug use. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the health department is actively seeking approval to provide educational resources for age groups earlier than sixth grade, in order to address this issue.
Applekamp emphasizes the importance of collaboration among various organizations and community leaders to pool resources and support the youth. Moving forward, the health department will focus on connecting community resources to support the development of youth in Dickinson and Iron counties. Their ongoing efforts will aim to address the challenges faced by teenagers and provide them with the necessary tools to thrive.
As the community rallies behind these initiatives, at Kingsford High School to fundraise for the new teen advocacy center, Iron Mountain’s “The Cure”, it is hoped that the combined efforts of the health department, teen alliance organizations, and community leaders will create a brighter future for the youth in Dickinson and Iron counties. By addressing the pressing needs and concerns of the younger generation, they can pave the way for a healthier and more prosperous community.
For more information on how to contact the Dickinson-Iron Health Department, visit:
To purchase tickets for tomorrow’s Drive-In Movie fundraiser showing of ‘The Sandlot’ or reach out to Iron Mountain’s “The Cure”, which is the new teen advocacy center formed this year, visit: