Henderson teens Caroline and Lauren Edgeworth are helping raise awareness about mental health and teen suicide.
With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating anxieties and mental health issues, Hope Means Nevada aims to provide access to mental health resources and give hope.
In 2019, suicide was the leading cause of death for Nevada youth ages 12−19, according to the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention. Nevada has the 11th highest suicide rate in the nation and it is double the national rate.
The Edgeworth sisters, co-chairs of the Hope Means Nevada teen committee, helped organize the Hope Rocks project with the goal of bringing joy to the community. They invited friends to paint and distribute more than 100 rocks with colorful messages of hope, support and acceptance to various parks around the Las Vegas Valley.
‘Little acts of kindness’
On Tuesday, International Friendship Day, the group of seven teens went out to Lorenzi Park to start dispersing the rocks. From there, the group split up to scatter the rocks to 14 other locations, including Sunset Park, Nevada Trails Park and Heritage Park.
“It’s really nice just to spread little acts of kindness like this smallest thing can change someone’s day, and you can make them so much happier,” said Caroline Edgeworth, 16. “It doesn’t have to be something big at all like just spreading these messages and making sure everyone knows you’re not alone. I think that’s a really important message to spread.”
The rocks at the parks allow the positive messages to be easily seen and shared on social media with limited contact. Anyone who encounters one of the colorful rocks can take a photo of it, share it on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter using the hashtags #HopeRocks and #ASK5 and tag @HopeMeansNevada to share the message.
Sharing the message
The two sisters also hope to normalize the conversation about mental health issues among teens.
During times of social distancing and isolation, the teens are encouraging others to #ASK5. To reach out to five friends or family members to see how they are truly doing under the surface, more than just “hello, how are you,” and remind them they are not alone.
“It’s definitely been more difficult online because you’re not in person to embrace them, but we have been able to do a lot through FaceTime and text messages,” said Lauren Edgeworth, 15. “Letting our friends know ‘Hey, you can call me at any time, I’m always here for you’ is very important.”
Caroline and Lauren attend and play volleyball at Bishop Gorman High School, but this season is canceled. The disappointment of not playing in addition to not attending class or seeing friends in person helped encourage the girls to put their energy and extra time into advocacy, their mom, Angela Edgeworth, said.
“I’ve been through a couple of rough patches where I’ve definitely had a low,” Lauren Edgeworth said. “I thank all my friends that reached out to me.”
Angela Edgeworth said she looks forward to Hope Means Nevada growing and eventually having student advocates in every high school, sharing the importance of checking up on friends and getting students the mental health help needed.
In the future, they hope to have in-person events to educate and advocate for suicide prevention.
“It’s not something that’s going to go away with COVID. COVID is causing an uprising in mental health issues,” Caroline Edgeworth said. “We want to continue this project. It just means so much to us. We think this issue is really important and it needs to be addressed.”
Signs of suicide can include changes in conversation, behavior and mood, according to the American Association of Suicidology.
If a person talks about being a burden to others and feeling trapped; if a person starts acting recklessly or withdrawing from friends, family and activities; if a person starts experiencing rage, anxiety or a loss of interest — among other factors — reach out to the person or seek help.
For more information, visit www.suicidology.org/resources/warning-signs. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), provides access to trained telephone counselors, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.