Like many teachers, Adam Gent is looking forward to seeing his students in person this school year.
Gent teaches physical education at Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas. He also runs the school’s Hope Squad, a peer-to-peer program that trains students to keep an eye on at-risk classmates, catch suicide warning signs and seek help from adults.
The twice-a-month program, used at 19 schools across the state, began remotely at Spring Valley with meetings of up to 70 to 80 students and staff. And Gent said he’s looking forward to starting in-person sessions.
“I think we’ll be able to connect a lot stronger,” he said, “because people will build stronger relationships being with each other.”
In response to student stresses from pandemic-affected learning, several schools in Nevada are putting more effort into their mental health programs. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows that from February to March of this year, suspected suicide attempt emergency room visits were 50.6 percent higher among 12 to 17-year-old girls and 3.7 percent higher among 12 to 17-year-old boys, compared to 2019 levels.
Numbers like those have led school districts to make investments in and step up screenings amid a pandemic that suicide prevention officials said brought mental health conversations to the forefront of the classroom.
Washoe County School District, Carson City School District, and the state’s Public Charter School Authority received $1.8 million in federal Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) funds in 2020. Starting this September, 17 schools will be using those grant dollars to implement programs that “promote resilience and promote pro-social behaviors.”
State Suicide Prevention Coordinator Misty Vaughan Allen said the money will finance trainings that promote mental health awareness among students and teach educators how to identify and respond to students with mental health issues. Allen added that schools want families more involved.
This portion of the article is shared as part of our collaboration with The Nevada Independent. This story was originally published on August 12, 2021, and written by Zachary Bright.