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Responding as a community to youth suicide



Following several recent teen suicides in northern Nevada, organizations including The Children’s Cabinet, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Reno Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, Renown Health, and local experts like Dr. Steve Nicholas, are increasing outreach and efforts to provide support and grief resources to families, schools and youth throughout northern Nevada. These organizations are also working closely together to provide critical information on accessible mental health services and raise awareness of the risks and realities of suicide locally and statewide.

“A single event has ripples of impact that spread through our community. We encourage all families in Washoe County to pay attention to how their teens are doing in the coming days and months and encourage communication. It is extremely important to remind adults and families that studies have shown that talking about suicide in a supportive and caring way does not increase the risk of suicide, in fact, conversations about suicide could save a life,” advises Kim Young, The Children’s Cabinet Executive Director. “The Children’s Cabinet is carefully collaborating with schools and local partners to provide information about common reactions following a suicide, how adults can help youth cope, and the risk factors and warning signs for suicide.” 

Studies and research by Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System show four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs to family and peers. The following warning signs may indicate a young person may be at risk for suicide or self-harm: 

  • Talking about or making plans for suicide 
  • Expressing hopelessness about the future 
  • Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress  
  • Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior 
  • Withdrawal from or change in social connections or situations 
  • Changes in sleep (increased or decreased)
  • Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context 
  • Recent increased agitation or irritability 

In the aftermath of a suicide, local expert Dr. Steve Nicholas shares the following suggestions for families managing difficult emotions and questions. “Now is the time with loved ones, families, and community members to lean toward and enhance what we already have access to. We can put forth more intentionality and connectedness with the people around us. While it is important to recognize the signs of suicidality, perhaps more importantly, we can focus on promoting loving affiliations and opportunities for success. Please increase face time with your loved ones. Please create new positive memories. Please make plans for the short term and long term future. Simply, engage with each other every day.” 

Suicide is the first leading cause of death for Washoe County children ages 12-19, and second leading cause of death for ages 20-44. 

These key crisis response services and resources are available to help: 

  • Crisis Support Services of Nevada provides 24/7 call and text lines to offer support and resources for those in need; call 1-800-273-8255 or text CARE to 839863. 
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained counselors at local crisis centers across the country are available 24/7, giving youth contemplating suicide someone to talk to and a way to help. 
  • SafeVoice program provides students a safe place to submit anonymous tips concerning their own safety or others by visiting www.safevoicenv.org, calling 833-216-SAFE or downloading the SafeVoice app to their mobile device. 
  • A Friend Asks is a free phone app for Androids and Iphones provided by the Jason Foundation as a ready resource for teens and parents with information, tools and resources to help someone struggling with thoughts of suicide. 
  • National Association of School Psychologists provides free resources and publications on how to support youth dealing with death and grief at www.nasponline.org 

For local parents or youth needing emotional support or assistance in dealing with recent events, The Wilbur D. May Youth Center offers walk-in hours with licensed Children’s Cabinet therapists Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., located at 777 Sinclair Street, Reno, NV 89501. 

Reno Behavioral Healthcare Hospital also provides free and confidential assessments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please call 775-393-2200 for more information.

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