Two sisters in Las Vegas drew inspiration from a teen in another state, who made mental health a priority for students in Nevada.
Caroline and Lauren Edgeworth, assisting community groups and Senator Marilyn Dondero Loeb, D-Las Vegas Democrat, have pushed legislation that would allow Nevada students ages 7 to 18 to take up to three mental health days per year and add mental health resources to the portion Back of all student ID cards statewide.
The Senate passed Bill 249 unanimously in the Senate and 32-9 in the Assembly before Governor Steve Sisolak signed the bill in June.
Lauren Edgeworth, 16, said, “Mental health is something that isn’t commonly talked about. For some of our friends, starting a discussion was even more annoying.”
Her 18-year-old sister, Caroline, said social media has been hurting teens’ mental health “because we’re always on our phones, trying to portray an image for the audience that isn’t necessarily always correct, but it’s like a highlight reel. So I think that has a huge impact on him, and that’s why the Conversations are very important.”
One of SB 249’s goals is to normalize conversations about mental health, said Dr. Sheldon Jacobs, a marriage and family therapist who serves on the Hope Means Nevada Board of Directors, part of a Nevada Medical Center that aims to improve collaboration and service delivery. Resources about mental health issues in the state.
“There is a stigma around mental health,” Jacobs said. “A lot of people don’t come out and talk about mental health because they are ashamed that they are going to be ashamed of it, because mental health is still not accepted from a societal perspective. Mental health is seen by society as a weakness, or sometimes not a real thing.”
Edgeworths, who attends Bishop Gorman High School, works with Hope Means Nevada. They started a teen committee that started with a few of their friends and has now grown to more than 120 teens across the state.
It started with TED Talk
For years, Edgeworths has been fascinated by TED Talks, almost regardless of the topic. This year, they stumbled upon one from a college student in Oregon named Hailey Hardcastle titled “Why Students Should Have Mental Health Days.”
Hardcastle has spoken about her own mental health journey and how her mother would allow her to take three mental health days each year while she was growing up. She was inspired to do more to help her peers, and in 2019, at age 18, she worked with lobbyists and community organizations to pass a bill that would give Oregon students three mental health days a year.
The Nevada bill also gives mental and behavioral health professionals the ability to exempt students from school and requires school districts and university systems throughout Nevada to ensure that student ID cards are provided with a number for either a local or national suicide prevention hotline.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34 — after “accidents (unintended injuries)” — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Besides the pandemic, which has put a strain on the mental health of students across the country, Hope Means Nevada and other groups have recognized that this is the time to tackle this problem.
“If we can save three lives in three days, or three hundred lives in three days, it doesn’t matter,” said Dondero Loeb. “If we can save one life in three days, I think that’s more important than worrying about who might or might not abuse the system.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255, provides access to trained telephone counselors, 24/7. Crisis Text Line is a free nationwide service available 24/7. Text HOME to 741741.
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