‘Help is out there’: Nevada County health officials work toward community suicide prevention
LET’S TALK NEVADA COUNTY
Call 530-265-5811, or toll-free at 1-888-801-1437
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE
Call 1-800-273-8255, or text ‘HOME’ to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Week begins Sunday, and Nevada County health officials are working to promote community awareness of mental health resources through the Let’s Talk Nevada County program, mental health training sessions, and partnership with local businesses.
The Let’s Talk Nevada County website, launched in June, is a collection of resources which includes information on self-care advice, guidance on how to support others, and a list of numerous local and external agencies to contact for help. The page also lists upcoming activities, such as trainings on mental health first aid and knowing the signs of suicidal behavior.
“A key part of this initiative is that people need and access help in different ways, and it’s not always through professional support,” said Nevada County Mental Health Services Act Coordinator Priya Kannall. “So, the goal is to really remind people that there are other strategies to taking care of your mental health, including self-care, creating routines, and building up resilience in our community by building networks and checking in with one another.”
Kannall said Nevada County has not seen a drastic increase in calls to the county crisis line or assessment visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, but county health staff are informed that there has been an increase statewide and are responding accordingly.
“We thought it was important to address it, even from a prevention angle,” said Kannall.
County departments are also extending their outreach to local businesses that are interested in helping promote suicide prevention and awareness, according to Toby Guevin, Health Education Coordinator for Nevada County Public Health.
The county is in the process of acquiring materials such as stickers and other small items promoting Let’s Talk Nevada County, which they will provide to any businesses or organizations who would like to distribute them.
Phebe Bell, director of Nevada County Behavioral Health, said the volume of people in need of urgent mental health assessments at the county’s crisis stabilization unit — located in Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital — decreased at the beginning of the pandemic, likely due to hesitation regarding the risk of COVID-19 in public spaces like a hospital.
More recently, these numbers have gone back to the volume seen before the pandemic, but Bell described these assessments as showing a higher intensity of need. “People are continuing to avoid going to the hospital for a less intensive crisis, so by the time they either come in or call the crisis line, the acuity of their distress is pretty high,” she said.
She emphasized that suicide prevention involves addressing a complex network of effects of mental health crises and suicide.
“When we lose someone in our community to suicide, Behavioral Health tries to make therapists available to any survivors or people touched by that loss and provide support right from the get-go, so that we can stop future suicides from occurring,” said Bell.
“The premise of good suicide prevention or community wellness is building our collective capacity to take care of ourselves and each other,” said Bell, adding that Let’s Talk Nevada County is based on that premise.
“Help is out there, whether it’s your known support system or communitywide systems. Nobody should be afraid to reach out and say they’re having a hard time. It’s incredibly normal to be having a hard time,” said Bell. “People care, and want to connect with and support you.”
Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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