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Interview: Mental health impacts from the pandemic in Nevada

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Nationally, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and in Nevada, it ranks 8th. KUNR’s Nick Stewart spoke with Misty Vaughan Allen, the state’s suicide prevention coordinator, about how the pandemic is impacting mental health and what the closure of the West Hills Behavioral Health Hospital means for Reno.

Editor’s note: This story involves the discussion of suicide.

Nick Stewart: Since the pandemic began, would you say that you have seen an increase in suicide hotline calls?

Misty Vaughan Allen: What we noticed in the beginning and throughout the pandemic, and 2020, suicide calls decreased, but what we saw was an increase in calls around anxiety, depression. I think that uncertainty really amplified those feelings, and another big one [was] isolation. So yes, their calls did increase, but it wasn’t necessarily for suicide risk at that point in time.

Now, as we continue with this ongoing pandemic, we are seeing an increase in calls around mental health and suicide. And I will add the acuity or that intensity of that person’s risk for suicide; I’ve seen increases in that as well.

Stewart: As I’m sure you’ve heard, Misty, the West Hills behavioral center in Reno is going to be closing very soon. What are your concerns on this matter?

Vaughan Allen: I think any community who loses such an important resource is going to feel that impact. I know many of us are very saddened because we’ve worked with that agency for decades. And for Nevada, we have such a lack of resources to begin with that any loss of potential support for families and those with thoughts of suicide and other mental health issues is a huge concern. Absolutely. I’m heartbroken.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.

The photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.

Nick Stewart is a student reporter for KUNR and is studying journalism at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.
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