LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The U.S. is facing a mental health crisis unlike anything seen before and it’s affecting adults and children, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
A report by QuoteWizard, an insurance company found 21% of Nevadans have a mental illness and the state has the eighth worse access to mental health care in the country. Only four out of 10 Nevadans with mental illness are receiving care.
Dr. Sheldon Jacobs, a marriage and family therapist who is also the Vice President of the National Alliance on Mental Illness for Southern Nevada, says psychiatric facilities are overwhelmed and there just aren’t enough professionals to serve the area.
“We have a lot of shortcomings with our mental health system,” Dr. Jacobs said. “A lot of our licensed therapists have long waiting lists as well. So for somebody that is struggling with mental health and trying to access services, it’s not always the most accessible process.”
The youth population is deeply impacted by the lack of access.
“What we’ve been doing hasn’t been effective unfortunately and we know that our kids are really suffering,” Dr. Jacobs added.
Mental Health America reports that the Silver State is last when it comes to a higher prevalence of mental illness in children combined with lower rates to access of care.
“We’ve had the earthquake which was the pandemic, and now the tsunami is starting to hit where we’re seeing a lot of the violence in the school setting,” Dr. Jacobs said.
“Students are dealing with more and more from cyberbullying to gun violence. So, it’s really important that when they’re at school they have a safe and supportive school climate that can help them address those things,” said Denise Forte, with The Education Trust.
Funds from the American Rescue Plan have helped get more counselors in schools and more money for programs, like NAMI, to offer support to the community.
“School is a good starting point when it comes to big a hub for resources and support. So, I think that we need to really focus on our educators and how we deliver mental health,” Dr. Jacobs said.
“There are a few things they could be doing, they could hire more school counselors, they can hire school psychologists. All of those are good and we need more of those because they have really overwhelming caseloads,” Forte said.
There are two legislative bills that could help address mental health needs in Nevada.
- SB313 which would require increased learning and support for health education and resources in K-12.
- SB242 which would decriminalize small amounts of psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms, which has been found to successfully treat various mental health needs, including PTSD in veterans.
“I’m confident that we will continue to figure this out. There’s a lot of work being done behind the scenes where people are doing all they can to really change this narrative in our state,” Dr. Jacobs said.
How you can help
Talk to your legislators about the two bills in Cason City right now and keep the conversation going beyond May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month. Destigmatizing mental health could encourage more people to get the help they need.
Mental health resources
If you’re in crisis, talk to someone now by calling 988, the Suicide Prevention hotline.
“It’s OK to not be OK but it’s not OK to not seek the support that’s out there,” Dr. Jacobs said.
There are a number of free resources in the community, including free support groups at NAMI Southern Nevada. Also, Nevada 211 has a full list of free resources.
You can find resources for teens and young adults in Nevada by texting CARE to 839863 or you can call a peer at (775) 241-4212, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekends. You can also text a peer from noon to 10 p.m. daily.
Tips to discuss mental health
NAMI suggests parents discuss mental health with their children and offers suggestions on the best way to do that. Children can be reluctant or ashamed to discuss how they feel mentally with their parents. It’s important to reassure them, build trust, and keep a line of communication open.