Survey seeks to define what challenges young adults face

Story by Autumn Secody---- Autumn Secody, of Utah Navajo Health System, and Alyn Mitchell of the San Juan County Prevention, Action, Collaboration Coalition (SJCPAC Coalition), administered Community Surveys to 200 people living on or near the Utah Navajo Strip. The surveys were created through a Department of Human Services program called UT YES. UT YES helps young people in rural areas work through challenges and gain independence as they become adults. The survey asked respondents to pick from a list the community that best represented “home” to them. Choices on the list included Navajo Reservation, San Juan County, Monument Valley, Navajo Mountain, Montezuma Creek, and Halchita. After picking a community, respondents were asked how well they felt their community supported youth as they moved into adulthood. Respondents most often rated their communities as average (Navajo Reservation, Monument Valley, and Montezuma) or poor (San Juan County, Navajo Mountain, and Halchita). Best support. Respondents were then asked to pick from a list the areas that provided the best supports for young people as they became adults. The communities all looked pretty similar with respondents most often picking; • Preparation through public education (K-12), • Higher education opportunities, and • Job skills training opportunities. Respondents from two of the communities picked slightly different areas. Respondents from Monument Valley most often picked strong family support systems as their greatest strength and did not pick higher education opportunities. Respondents from Montezuma Creek picked religious and spiritual influences and did not pick job skills training opportunities. Greatest challenge. Next, respondents were asked to pick from a list the areas that provided the greatest challenges for young people as they became adults. People from different communities picked different things but most often they selected • Substance misuse or abuse, • Higher education opportunities, • Job skill training opportunities, • Poverty, and • Unplanned parenthood. It is interesting that higher education opportunities and job skills training were selected when community members were asked about greatest supports and were also picked when they asked about greatest challenges. This may suggest that access to higher education and job skills training is not the same for everybody and that people who have access see those things as strengths, but people who do not have access see those things as a challenge. The other most common challenges were unemployment (Navajo Mountain), lack of support from families (San Juan County), and preparation through public education (Montezuma Creek). Stigma. Stigmatized people are discriminated against and have a “bad mark” on them. One reason that it is important to understand stigma is because being stigmatized makes it harder for people to ask for help, become employed, access care, and obtain housing. Survey respondents were most likely to say that stigmatized people in their communities were people who: • Are addicted to drugs or alcohol, • Use drugs or alcohol, or • Are poor. Other stigmatized groups included people who are unemployed (Navajo reservation and Monument Valley), people who are single parents (San Juan County), and people who are racial or ethnic minorities (Navajo Mountain). Substance misuse or abuse was seen as one of the greatest challenges and also as an area of great stigma. Working to reduce the stigma associated with substance use or misuse might make it easier for young people who are struggling with substance use to get help, become more socially connected, obtain jobs, or finish school. If you have any questions about this survey or want more details about the results, please feel free to contact Autumn Secody (, Alyn Mitchell ( or Kristin Swenson (