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Community plays large role in suicide prevention for youths

Posted at 10:20 AM, Aug 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-21 11:20:37-04

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story deals with suicide and may affect some readers.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in those ages 10 to 14, and the second leading cause of death in those ages 15 to 24. This year in Sarpy and Douglas county alone, 40 suicides have been reported, 23 less than last year.

But six of those deaths have been with youth.

Mental health experts from around the state gathered for a virtual discussion on Thursday night, to offer support and knowledge to the community.

They say some factors in young people’s mental health to be aware of are bullying, school stress, social media, cultural shock for immigrants and refugees, racism and homophobia to name a few.

The experts say while young people are able to find mental health resources online, community connection plays a big role in prevention.

“We’re seeing a lot of connections via the Instagram and the different connections that way, and that can be positive and that can be negative too," said Dr. Dave Miers withBryan Medical Center West.

Instead, they recommend building strong connections with local support groups, school and campus counselors or through telehealth services for those in more rural communities.

Another issue that young people may face is not knowing how to talk about suicide or approach a friend they are concerned about. Julia Hebenstreit, executive directer of the Kim Foundation, says practicing the conversation can make it easier.

“It’s not something that’s in our normal, everyday conversation," Hebenstreit said. "We encourage people, practice saying it in a mirror, practice saying it to each other. So when the time comes you feel comfortable enough to ask that question.”

Hebenstreit says be direct with the question saying something like “Are you thinking about harming yourself?" Try not to show judgment or disappointment if the answer is yes. Instead try to be supportive.

Miguel Estevez, a provisionally licensed mental health practitioner in Grand Island, says just listening to young people about the challenges they are facing plays a huge part in suicide prevention.

“The biggest thing when it comes to prevention is hearing our youth, hearing our young adults. Because we just want to be heard, we want to be loved. We want to be connected.”

You can find several resources online at or by calling the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 800-273-TALK.

Watch the full discussion, Preventing Youth Suicide in Nebraska, hosted by NET Nebraskabelow: