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Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Brings Together Officials, Advocates

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Photo credit: RBJR Photography/www.rbjrphotography.com

A sign of the times during September, which is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Hundreds of people marked Suicide Prevention Awareness Month over the weekend at a rally and walk in Henderson. And it was only one of more than a dozen similar events held around the state, demonstrating how suicide touches so many in Nevada.

The state has one of the nation’s highest suicide rates, with more people taking their own lives than are killed by others or on the highway.

That costs the state a half-billion dollars a year in medical expenses and lost economic input, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Still, Nevada’s ranking is down from where it was a decade ago, before the creation of the state’s Office of Suicide Prevention.

“We really want to promote wellness and promote recovery, because help is available,” said state suicide prevention coordinator Misty Vaughan Allen said.

Vaughn Allen said Nevada, like other states in the mountain west, has a high rate of suicide for a number of reasons from lack of resources to isolation to high gun ownership.

“You look at many, many different aspects of risk factors and that’s why we would probably have the highest rates,” she said.

She said there is a high stigma around mental health to begin with, plus the western idea of not interfering with other people's business can lead to a feeling of being isolated. 

Vaughn Allen said reaching out is really the best way to help.

“Isolation, I do believe, is a big piece of this," she said, "Because when we’re isolated and that could be within a family, that could be within a community but we’re not feeling it.”

She said for people with suicidal thoughts it is not about dying, it is about not being able to cope with the pain they're currently in. 

“When people are having thoughts of suicide, it really is not about dying," she said, "It is about loss, pain overwhelm. When we can connect as a helper, they can find ways to choose life.”

Howard Giles is a mental health counselor with the Mobile Crisis Response Team. The team provides services for young people in crisis. 

Giles said when the team is dealing with a teen who is suicidal it comes up with a safety plan and part of that plan is specific things parents can do to help. 

“So often we see kids say things like ‘talk to me’ ‘listen to me’ ‘spend time with me,’" he said, "Their peers aren’t stopping talking to them about these things, teachers aren’t, radio news, other media. They see all this stuff on Facebook. If their parents are the only ones not talking to them about it, that’s a real lost opportunity on the part of the parents”

Despite the taboo that surrounds suicide, parents need to talk to their kids about it. He said it should be part of the every day conversations parents are having with their kids. 

He said parents should be open to what their children say. He starts conversations off by simply saying "What's going on?" He said they'll eventually get to the important stuff.  

Family therapist Claudia D'alessio Schwarz agreed. She treats young people struggling with mental health issues and their families.

She said parents should not only talk to their kids about suicide but should be on top of what's going on in their lives. 

“Parents need to be aware that as their children get older they actually need more monitoring and supervision and not less,” she said.

D'alessio Schwarz advises parents to know what is on their kids' smart phones and social media feeds. She said parents should know who their kids are talking to and what they're talking about.

Support comes from

Resources:

If you or someone you know is in crisis call the national hotline: 

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention

Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention

Mobile Crisis Response Team - Hotline: 702-486-7865

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

From Desert Companion, "When my son threatened suicide, I thought help would be a phone call away. Instead, I entered a maze of false hopes and shockingly scant resources."

From Desert Companion: "I swear I will" 

Guests

Misty Vaughan Allen, suicide prevention coordinator, Nevada’s Office of Suicide Prevention; Claudia D'alessio Schwarz, family therapist; Howard Giles, mental health counselor, Mobile Crisis Response Team

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