LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — In our Health Check '22 series, 13 Action News anchor Dave Courvoisier looks at some of this year's biggest impacts on our health. The state of our well-being is at stake when so many Americans are feeling the pressure these days.
Between COVID-19, working from home, inflation, and even the Russia-Ukraine war, many are feeling anxious.
"It was really bad," 15-year-old Bryanna Arteaga said. "I didn't know how to calm myself down."
Last year she noticed her anxiety was starting to get the best of her. Artega said she knew she needed help after breaking down at school one day.
"I couldn't breathe, and I just kind of felt overwhelmed," Arteaga said. "I just couldn't. So I went to the bathroom and I started crying. I was like, well, why? Why am I feeling like this?"
Arteaga turned to her mom for help and started attending an online group therapy session.
"They talked about mindfulness and ways to like deal with school," Arteaga said. "Like school stress and home stress and friends."
Patrick Rogers, clinical director of behavioral health at Nevada Health Centers, says the pandemic had a major impact on every demographic, but especially teenagers.
"The pandemic kind of had this chain reaction of things that were happening to people that would never normally think that they would ever experience that level of stress," Rogers said. "I think the biggest effect was really on our high schoolers, on the adolescents again, because of that social piece, right? Kids want to fit into a group and all of a sudden there was no group to even be a part of."
As a result, Rogers said Nevada is experiencing an increase in teen drug and alcohol use, and thoughts of suicide. The biggest issue is reaching the teens, as well as adults, who need help.
"Access has always been an issue for the Nevadans," Rogers said."To get in to see a behavioral health provider, to get in and see one on time and consistently."
Rogers said he feels the state's hands are tied as many programs are experiencing budget cuts, including behavioral health. But he says it's not just a lack of funding, it's a workforce issue as well.
"Nevada's ranked dead last," said Rogers when referring to Nevada's performance supporting mental health. "We're 51st in the nation since 2011."
To address that issue in the long-term, Rogers said recruiting programs are actively educating middle school, high school and college students about careers in the healthcare field.
"And again with the pandemic, if you think about it, there's more people that are actually seeking help," Rogers said.
Crisis Support Services of Nevada is one place where many are turning for support. Executive director, Rachelle Pellissier, said their 24-hour hotline is experiencing an increase in escalated calls.
"When someone calls in, they are much closer to that eminent risk to themselves or someone else," Pellissier said. "We're having to deploy emergency services much more frequently."
Similar to Rogers, Pellissier says it's the youngest demographic that seems to have been hit the hardest.
"Our kids are struggling, and we see it especially now," Pellisier said.
CALL OR TEXT
To reach those kids, Crisis Support Service staff and volunteers are willing to speak and even text with anyone needing their help.
"They'll go into the bathroom at school and text us because they're depressed, they're anxious they're having a panic attack," Pellisier said. "What we've found is when we give kids our phone number, they use it."
That's the good news. More kids and adults are willing to seek assistance today. Rogers said that's one of the highlights to come out of all of this.
"The pandemic for all the issues that it really caused," Rogers said. "It really opened our eyes as the general public to an acceptance of what mental health really is."
Arteaga agrees and has a message for anyone considering reaching out.
"It's okay to not be okay. Let someone know, just talk to someone, and it really helps just to talk about it," Arteaga said. "Like if you keep it in, it's not going to make anything any better."
If you or someone you know needs to talk, call Crisis Support Services of Nevada at (800) 273-8255 or text CARE to 839863. Their lines are open 24-hours a day, every day, offering free and confidential support.
This story is part of our 13 Connects initiative, sponsored by Subaru of Las Vegas, America First Credit Union and Landmark Recovery.