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Sooke School District students use school-provided laptops in a class: Nov. 18, 2019 (CTV News)

Mental health for youth across South Vancouver Island has worsened compared to five years ago, according to a new survey released by the McCreary Centre Society, which polled tens of thousands of B.C. youth.

The society says that South Island students polled in 2018, who ranged from Grades 7 to 12, reported a higher rate of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts than the same age group in 2013.

"Eighteen percent of local youth had seriously considered suicide in the past year, which was an increase for both females and males," said Annie Smith, executive director of McReary's in a news release Wednesday.

Additionally, 17 per cent of students said they suffered from depression – up from 10 per cent in 2013 – and 22 per cent reported having an anxiety disorder, more than double the rate of 10 per cent from five years earlier.

Smith notes, however, that the rise in suicidal thoughts among youth did not result in an actual increase in suicides.

"This is obviously concerning as was the rise in students who did not access mental health care when they felt they needed it but what was positive was we didn’t see an increase in local youth attempting suicide," she said.

"I think this speaks to students being more likely to feel connected to their community, to have an adult in their community who cares about them and to reach out to family and others when they need help than we’ve seen in previous years."

Meanwhile, the percentage of youth in the South Island who reported having tried alcohol, marijuana or tobacco remained higher than the provincial average, but similar to the region's statistics in 2013.

In total, 48 per cent of youth said they had tried alcohol, 30 per cent reported trying marijuana and 21 per cent said they had smoked tobacco.

While the survey determined that there were small increases in negative experiences among youth, like a rise in sexual abuse, physical abuse and discrimination based on physical appearance and race, the majority of South Vancouver Island youth said they felt generally positive about their quality of life.

When asked if the students had a good life, 80 per cent of respondents said 'yes' and 74 percent said that their life was "going well."

The McCreary Centre Society survey report used information from students in the Greater Victoria School District, Sooke School District, Saanich School District and Gulf Islands School District.

The society's entire provincial survey gathered 38,000 responses from 58 of B.C.'s 60 school districts, and is considered to represent more than 95 per cent of mainstream school students in Grades 7 to 12.

The South Island survey report can be found in its entirety here.