The city of Henderson and Clark County School District are partnering to launch a suicide-prevention program for preteen and teenage students.
A launch event for “Henderson Hope Squad” was held Dec. 9 at Miller Middle School. The program began a few days later, Dec. 12, at seven middle schools (Brown, Burkholder, Greenspun, Mannion, Miller, Del Webb and Thurman White) and five high schools (Basic, Coronado, Foothill, Green Valley and Liberty) in Henderson.
Hope Squad is a school-based peer-support program that trains students to recognize when their classmates are struggling with emotional issues and share their concerns with an adult. Schools in more than a dozen states and Canada participate in the program.
The idea to take action came after 14-year-old Caera Hawkes — who attended Miller Middle School — died by suicide Nov. 1, 2018. Her parents were at the Henderson Hope Squad event.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal doesn’t typically name those who die by suicide; it is for this story because Caera’s parents and the city have identified her in conjunction with the Henderson Hope Squad program.
The tragedy “moved all of us,” and Henderson Hope Squad is just a start toward addressing the issue of suicide, Henderson Mayor Debra March told the Review-Journal during a recent interview.
The city has committed to funding the program for at least three years, including $70,000 for the upcoming year, March said.
School officials at Miller Middle School weren’t available to comment prior to winter break starting in mid-December.
For Henderson Hope Squad, students at each participating school nominated peers to be part of a volunteer team. Those students will receive 80 hours of training, which began in mid-December.
They’ll learn how to recognize the signs of peers who are contemplating suicide or need a friend, March said.
Students who are in distress, Henderson city spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said, are much more likely to reach out to a friend than an adult.
Crisis Support Services of Nevada has a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline that provides free support to people who are in crisis. For help, call 1-800-273-8255 or text CARE to 839863.
Helping police officers and firefighters
The city of Henderson is also working to provide mental health resources to its police officers and firefighters, Mayor Debra March told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a recent interview.
In early October, Pettingill’s funeral was held at Central Christian Church after a motorcade brought his ashes by Fire Station 97, where he was last assigned.
Henderson Fire Department officials said Pettingill had post-traumatic stress disorder. Before Pettingill’s death, he created a plan for a fire mental health service program and sent it to fire department leaders.
In May, Pettingill’s father — retired Henderson fire Capt. Scott Pettingill — also died by suicide, the fire department said.