Nevada has a major problem, youth suicide. No parent, loved one, classmate or friend should ever have to go through the horror and loss that comes in the aftermath of a suicide. According to the Office of Suicide Prevention, it has become the 2nd leading cause of death for Nevadans age 15-24. It is a heartbreaking issue and one that deserves our attention. This is one of my priorities of mine this session and is the reason why I introduced Assembly Bill 114 to improve suicide prevention in our state.
Each year 20 out of every 100,000 Nevadans end their own lives. Suicide does not discriminate based on race, age or gender and can impact anyone. According to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Suicide Prevention, in 2015 Nevada has the 11th highest rate in the nation for suicide and 22nd highest for Nevada Youths ages 15-24. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that suicide is the leading cause of death in individuals ages 10 to 34.
Kids and teens between the ages of 10 and 17 face increased pressure from school, parents, responsibilities, and, of course, peers. This peer pressure comes in many forms such as teasing, shunning, name calling, physical harm, and degrading sexual gestures. For children and teens, school is the place they spend a significant amount of their young lives. It is during this period of time we can make a difference and potentially save lives. School staff that interact with them on a daily basis are in a position to properly recognize the warnings signs of suicide and have the ability to get them the help they need.
The conditions and the suffering that lead up to an attempt at suicide often get less attention than the act itself. A 2015 survey from Nevada’s Office of Suicide Prevention showed that 85,477 Nevada youth felt sad or hopeless for two weeks or more. That means tens of thousands of our youth wake up every morning feeling that there is no hope. Many of these young people suffer for years without anyone knowing or understanding until the day they take drastic action.
I submitted Assembly Bill 114 this session which would require each school district and charter school to submit a report to the Department of Education on what programs and training they have implemented concerning suicide prevention among students. AB114 will also provide for the reporting of incidents of suicide and suicide ideation, i.e. suicidal thoughts. With this information, Nevada will be able to ensure that youth suicide prevention is being given the attention it deserves at every level of our education system.
We cannot let our young people down. Nevada’s youth should be excelling in school and enjoying life, not working their way through complex issues such as depression or being bullied on their own. As a state we need to continue to raise awareness of this suicide epidemic that has now spread to our young population. We must work tirelessly to make sure Nevada’s youth and their families never have to endure this tragedy again.
This irreplaceable loss of life in our state makes me wish that those enduring these dark thoughts would reflect on the famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “When it is darkest, we can see the stars.”