It’s been more than a year since the word “COVID” entered our national vernacular. Families have struggled to thrive, and our collective mental well-being has been harmed in unimaginable ways. We’ve all experienced sadness, doubt, tension — and the impact on Nevada’s youth is profound.
According to the Clark County School District, there have been more than 20 suicides in the past nine months since the district first closed. With drastic changes that have impacted their everyday lives, members of our youthful generation are finding it difficult to work without the stability provided by a typical school day. Isolation and lack of peer support are causing the youth to miss out on opportunities to interact with their peers and classmates — increasing the need for visual and physical connection.
Younger generations are also grieving the loss of significant school traditions such as prom, sporting activities, graduation and countless others. Many are even facing the difficulties of limited access to school and community-based programs that were once used to escape from what they were dealing with behind closed doors at home.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen that individuals are coming back into the community with fears, financial loss and struggles to secure a job. The negative mental health effects caused by the pandemic particularly hurt the Latinx/Hispanic community — a community in which mental well-being and mental health treatments are frequently stigmatized, resulting in prolonged periods of suffering in silence. Additionally, the Latinx/Hispanic population faces unique structural and systemic obstacles within mental health care, leading to decreased access to care. Hispanics, both young and old, need to recognize that seeking mental or behavioral health treatment is normal. Just like our bodies, the mind needs healing, close constant attention and care as well.
Overall, there is still a substantial stigma attached to the idea of mental health — not only within the Hispanic community, but other cultures as well. Because of this, individuals are straying away from seeking the psychological support they so desperately need. By refusing to seek treatment for our youth, we put them at risk of allowing severe mental health issues to worsen over time.
Untreated mental illnesses can cause problems in their relationships, affect their performance at school or at work and even put them at risk for substance use and addiction. Furthermore, more than half of adult mental health issues begin in youth. Mental health professionals can help improve the trajectory of someone’s life. Which is why we feel it’s imperative to develop initiatives that assist young people in managing stress in order to keep our current and future students at their best mentally.
In hopes of shedding light on this growing crisis, CPLC Nevada has partnered with UNLV’s School of Medicine to create a psychiatric access line. Through this access line, primary care providers can partner directly with child and adolescent psychiatrists as they work to meet both the physical and mental health needs of youth in their practices. We’ve made it our mission to help youth in our community rediscover their purpose and actively help guide them toward a fruitful future.
With an unimaginable amount of young people — many of which we serve and work with personally — one common theme we have noticed is the overwhelming feeling of a lack of support and loss of direction. They’re unaware of what resources they currently have, what to do with those resources and how to apply them within their day-to-day lives. It’s our belief that in life, the key to success is the support you surround yourself with — and that’s where we step in.
As a team, we help youth discover what they’re good at and what ignites their passion. We help them to identify their next course of action while lending a helping hand in conquering life’s difficulties. As human beings, we all share the common desire to feel supported — understood.
Rupert Ruiz is president of CPLC Nevada Inc. Lisa Durette, M.D. is an assistant professor in the UNLV School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health and serves as director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship.