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Hope Means Nevada campaign fights pandemic isolation, anxiety

Updated April 22, 2020 - 7:46 pm

Staying home and social distancing protect people who are physically vulnerable during the COVID-19 outbreak, but pandemic precautions may cause problems for Nevadans who live with depression and mental illness.

That’s why the Hope Means Nevada campaign is urging folks to reach out to five friends or family members every day to combat the isolation and anxiety.

The local branch of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation worked with local teens, medical professionals and nonprofits to launch the campaign on Wednesday with the goal of encouraging as many people as possible to share the #ASK5 tag on social media.

“Research of the Born This Way Foundation tells us that kindness, peer networks and mental health resources matter,” said Maya Smith, the foundation’s executive director.

According to the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention, 1 in 5 Nevadans have suffered from mental illness, and 1 in 5 Nevada teens will harm themselves or seriously consider doing so.

In 2019, Nevada had the 11th-highest rate of suicide in the United States. The local groups and leaders behind Hope Means Nevada aim to improve access to local mental health resources and help people extend their support networks with the campaign.

Lauren Edgeworth, a Las Vegas High School student who worked with the campaign, said mental health issues are “just so common among all my friends.”

“I feel that teens today especially just put so much pressure on themselves,” she said.

Dr. Alison Netski of the UNLV School of Medicine said the campaign’s first priority is educating Nevadans, especially teens, about mental health and helping them access resources.

But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hope Means Nevada organizers shifted their focus to assist those who may be suffering in silence under the stay-at-home order.

The campaign’s website offers information on spotting signs of depression in friends and loved ones, as well as coping strategies for self-quarantine. Organizers will continue to update the site and social media channels and track the campaign’s effect through the year.

People in crisis can get help through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by texting “Home” to 741741.

Contact Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter.

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