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Health officials say teen suicides are on the rise in Nevada

As numbers show that teen suicide in Nevada is once again on the rise, state officials and community advocates gathered Thursday to announce a new partnership aimed at reducing suicide across the state.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 12 to 19 in both Clark County and Nevada, behind accidental and unintentional injuries, according to the Southern Nevada Health District’s educator for injury violence prevention, Rebecca Cruz-Nanez.

Cruz-Nanez said there were 80 deaths by suicide in children ages 17 and younger in Clark County from 2016 to 2021. The youngest age of a child who died by suicide in 2020 was 8, down from age 12 in 2019.

While suicide is typically treated as an individual experience, its consequences have a lasting effect on society, Cruz-Nanez said.

“We have to think about the families of these 80 lives lost,” she said. “These suicides have an everlasting impact on multiple people, not just their family but every life that they touched, and this cannot be measured.”

Now, a new campaign designed to connect young people at risk for suicide to mental health resources is underway. SilverSummit Healthplan, a local health insurance provider, will put $1.5 million toward the campaign, in partnership with Hope Means Nevada, a nonprofit focused on eliminating youth suicide.

In July, Nevada and the rest of the country officially launched a three-digit phone number connecting trained personnel with people who are suicidal or experiencing another type of mental health crisis. The 988 number can be called or texted.

Suicide has long been one of the top 10 causes of death in Clark County, Cruz-Nanez said. The suicide rate among Nevada children and teenagers nearly doubled between 2017 and 2018.

“Although we have a major concern here, it can be prevented,” she said. “Suicide is preventable if we address it properly.”

While the rates of Nevada high school students who were contemplating suicide were already on the rise before the pandemic, the social isolation, missed developmental milestones and separation from social support systems that they often received at school have contributed to rising rates of depression and anxiety among adolescents, Cruz-Nanez said.

Belle Pobsuk, a Clark High School senior and volunteer with Hope Means Nevada, said she’s watched her peers struggle with their mental health, on top of dealing with her own mental health struggles.

In addition to the pressures of the pandemic and the loss of face-to-face interactions, students at Clark, an academically competitive and rigorous school, also deal with immense pressure from teachers, peers and parents, she said.

She said Hope Means Nevada is there to help those students navigate mental health resources they otherwise might not be aware that they have access to.

“Just knowing that there are other students out there that care, there are teachers out there that care, there are advisers that you can talk to. … Having something like that, knowing that there’s people out there, ready to help you and ready to listen to you is just a wonderful thing,” she said.

The organization’s new marketing effort is designed to point people struggling with thoughts of suicide toward a website where they can access:

— Free mental health hotlines.

— A number to call or text a peer.

— Tools to help with anxiety, stress or depression.

— Free mental health care, regardless of insurance, at walk-in clinics in Clark and Washoe counties.

— A free assessment to determine whether they or someone they know is at risk of suicide.

— Information on health care providers and emergency rooms nearby in the event of a crisis.

Pobsuk said she grew up in a family where therapy wasn’t often broached in conversations of health and well-being. She hopes that opening up the amount of resources available to young people can destigmatize mental health and encourage more people to seek help.

For more information about the campaign, visit MentalHealthResourcesNV.org.

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow her @lolonghi on Twitter.

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