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Parents, Teachers Urged to Learn Signs of Teen Mental-Health Crisis

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Children's mental-health-related visits to the emergency room have increased since April. (New Africa/Adobe Stock)
Children's mental-health-related visits to the emergency room have increased since April. (New Africa/Adobe Stock)
 By Lily Bohlke, Public News Service - NV - Producer, Contact
February 18, 2021

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- As the spread of the coronavirus continues, behavioral-health experts say it's as important as ever to make sure children and young people have the mental-health support they need.

In Las Vegas since the pandemic began, 19 students have died by suicide.

Taryn Hiatt, Utah/Nevada area director at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said it's critical for parents, teachers and other folks interacting with young people to educate themselves.

"Just like you would learn CPR to respond to somebody in a physical emergency or, you know, we learn the signs of stroke and heart attack, so we can be helpful," Hiatt explained. "Well, we all need to learn the signs and symptoms of a mental-health crisis."

She added those signs can range from depression and anxiety to withdrawing from activities or isolating themselves from family and friends.

Hiatt implored anyone who may be struggling or having thoughts of suicide to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or the Crisis Text Line, by texting HOME to 741741.

Wendy Whitsett, clinical practice coordinator for Health Plan of Nevada's Behavioral Healthcare Options, noted children are facing many of the same uncertainties adults are.

"Our new normal is not being able to play with their friends in the same ways, isolation and loneliness," Whitsett outlined. "Children use their peer groups, they play, just like we have our friends that we talk to."

Hiatt highlighted the importance of taking signs of mental-health crisis seriously, especially with children and teens. She pointed out the teenage brain is not fully formed yet, and young people often can act more impulsively.

"That's why it is even more risky for them to be in crisis," Hiatt cautioned. "Because they don't know with life experience that this thing that seems like it will never change is going to get better."

She recommends the my3 suicide-prevention app for anyone, not just people who've already made an attempt.

It poses questions such as who can you call, what can you do to distract yourself, and where is a safe space you can go, to be prepared with some strategies for coping if you do find yourself in crisis.

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