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Veteran works with state to combat mental illness, suicide

Posted at 7:16 AM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 10:16:06-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Richard Egan retired from the Air Force as a senior master sergeant after serving 28 years.

Since then, he has dedicated his life to tackling mental health and suicide as the outreach facilitator for Nevada’s office of suicide prevention.

“Society puts a stigma and taboo around suicide that families many times don't talk about it," he said. "Society doesn't talk about it, the community doesn't talk about it."

"And that's something that we're trying to change,” added Egan.

In order to change that stigma, he says we need to start having conversations about mental health.

“If we continue to not talk about it, what's going to happen is it's going to get worse instead of better,” Egan said.

He says research from Well Being Trust indicates Nevada is slated to have a spike in suicides due to the impacts of the pandemic. Therefore, he says it's imperative to train the public to recognize these clues.

“As we train individuals to recognize those pieces to the puzzle, we can have those individuals that are recognizing those clues connect that person to resources in our community,” said Egan.

He also wants to change the current pandemic language by dropping “social” distance, which creates isolation and has a negative undertone for people, and instead use the phrase “physical” distance.

“We need to physically distance, but we need to socially come together."

"Socially coming together can help prevent individuals from feeling isolated,” explained Egan. “If we change our rhetoric and how we address this, we can hopefully make a difference.”

Stopping suicides and tackling mental health may not be easy, but Egan believes with the right resources and education, we can save lives.

“We can make a difference in our community and we can save an individual from deciding to end their life,” he said.

“We lose more people by suicide than we lose in homicides and automobile accident deaths combined," said Egan. "Look at how much we do to prevent automobile accident deaths or homicides from occurring."

"We need to do more in suicide prevention because the opportunity to save a life is greater.”

If you notice warnings signs of a life crisis, don’t be afraid to ask the person if they need help.

And if you need help you can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you know a veteran we should feature email us at veteransvoice@ktnv.com.

Veteran's Voice is sponsored by Lexus of Henderson and Lexus of Las Vegas.