Clark County, Nevada, home to Las Vegas and the nation’s 5th largest school district, has announced it will begin re-opening some of its schools soon. The reason? The school district has experienced 18 student suicides since last March, when the schools closed due to COVID-19.
The district’s experience for the entire year 2019 involved only nine suicides, so the increase this year has alarmed district administration officials.
“When we started to see the uptick in children taking their lives, we knew it wasn’t just the COVID numbers we need to look at anymore,” said Jesus Jara, the Clark County superintendent, in an article in The New York Times. “We have to find a way to put our hands on our kids, to see them, to look at them. They’ve got to start seeing some movement, some hope.”
Clark County schools have provided iPads to their 300,000 students for at-home coursework. Beginning last June, the software included with the tablets also contained an early warning system that alerts district officials whenever students research the issue of suicide or communicate suicidal thoughts on social media or indicate some other concern. Between June and December, the district received over 3000 “alerts” via the program.
In one particular case with a happy ending, reported in The Times article, school officials contacted a grandfather after his 12-year-old grandson researched how to build a noose. The grandfather rushed into the child’s room just as the boy had put the noose around his neck.
But others are lost to the dark impulse to take their own lives, and educators like Jara feel that opening the schools will help.
The situation with teen suicide is serious nationwide, not just in Clark County, and the causes are many and complicated, and can’t be attributed simply to isolation due to COVID lockdowns, according to Joannie DiBrito, Director of Parenting and Youth at Focus on the Family.
“There are many contributors to suicide and no easy quick fix answers,” DeBrito told The Daily Citizen.
“Suicide rates among youth have been increasing steadily over the past decade and it is now the second leading cause of death among those 10-24 years of age. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has seen an increase in death by suicide among young people. Since healthy connections with friends and family members are known to help prevent suicidal thoughts and behaviors in some kids, some of the recent youth suicides may be related to kids being out of school and isolated from their peers, among other things.”
“Being at school may also provide routines that keep kids focused and engaged with physical activities that keep them healthy. Unfortunately, when kids aren’t in school, they tend to let those established routines go and may isolate in their rooms, tethered to technology and spending too much time on social media. Parents who are concerned about how their kids are being affected by being out of school during the pandemic can help their kids cope by –
– establishing routines at home that are similar to those at school such as getting dressed for school and having a routine that is similar to the school day schedule;
– encouraging physical exercise, preferably outside in the sunshine, to release stress and reap the benefits of moderate sun exposure, known to help decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety;
– limiting time that is spent on social media or playing video games; and
– helping them make face-to-face connections with friends or connect in meaningful ways online.”
In order to address the increase in youth suicide, Focus on the Family created Alive to Thrive, a biblically based suicide prevention and response resource that is free and available online. If you are a parent or an adult who interacts with youth on a regular basis, check out Alive to Thrive at www.alivetothrive.com. You’ll learn how to encourage good mental health in your children, how to recognize mental health concerns, and how to respond to significant problems or mental health crises.
To request a conversation with Focus on the Family’s Counseling Department, call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time), or complete our Counseling Consultation Request Form. Please be prepared to leave your contact information for a counselor to return a call to you as soon as possible. The consultation is available at no cost to you due to generous donor support and will be with one of our licensed or pastoral counseling specialists. We also offer referrals for licensed Christian counselors in your area: Find a Counselor
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