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Virtual festival takes aim at mental wellness, teen suicide

Hope Means Nevada, a community-based nonprofit focused on eliminating youth suicide in the state, announces Rising Hope, a free statewide virtual festival to raise awareness of how mental wellness saves lives and helps those struggling with mental illness find resources and community.

Rising Hope will be held 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, and is made possible thanks to community sponsors including Anthem Nevada Medicaid, Bank of America, Compassionate Las Vegas, Zappos, Subaru of Las Vegas, Silver Summit, Raiders Foundation, NV Energy and the Problem Gaming Center.

Rising Hope will be hosted by comedian Jeff Civillico and UNLV first-year student Valerie Almirola, with programming designed to engage teens, their parents, families, counselors and anyone else who wants to learn more about how to safeguard their mental health and that of their friends and loved ones.

The schedule will feature a fast-paced mix of frank mental health discussions, performances by regional entertainers and luminaries such as local singer-songwriter ChloA Watson, Alex Aide from Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller, as well as teens discussing their concerns and sharing resources. Topics to be addressed include anxiety and depression, bullying, sexual orientation and peer pressure.

The impact of COVID-19 means people of all ages, including teens, might be encountering higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression, and Nevada’s teen suicide rate is already among the highest in the nation. In 2019, the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention ranked Nevada 11th in the United States for teen suicide, at double the national rate.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Nevada youth ages 11 to 19, and one in five Nevada middle and high school students has considered, planned or committed suicide. Tragically, in just the first month of the current school year, the Clark County School District reported three teen suicides. Last year, no teen suicides were reported during the first month of the school year.

“When everything went online, we lost much of our social interaction,” said Hope Means Nevada Teen Committee Co-chair Caroline Edgeworth. “The only way to connect with friends was through social media or texting them. People feel a lot more isolated. Rising Hope will be full of helpful resources to help teens and their families and friends constructively get through this difficult situation.”

Hope Means Nevada’s 65-member teen committee representing high schools around the state meets monthly to discuss volunteer activities and ways to engage. Co-chaired by Edgeworth, a high school junior, and her sophomore sister Lauren Edgeworth, the teen committee has been involved in developing the content for the Rising Hope virtual festival.

“Although the Rising Hope Festival is focused on teens, the programming is for all ages,” said Hope Means Nevada co-founder Julie Murray. “Mental health problems can affect anyone, and we are here to support each other and save lives. One death is one too many.”

A full schedule of the Rising Hope festival, as well as instruction on how to participate, is available at https://hopemeansnevada.org/rising-hope-festival.

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