• Dec 18, 2018
  • 3:35 AM

Vegas PBS Supports Mental Health, Suicide Intervention

By Chuck N. Baker
(Las Vegas) — “Mental illness affects everybody.”

That is one message that was driven home to a group of local residents who attended the Mental Health Forum presented by Vegas PBS in late September. There was an advance showing of a Channel 10 television show hosted by Casey Smith, who interviewed a panel of health experts. Several of those experts, as well as others, also answered questions in person at the forum, held at the station’s Educational and Technology Campus on Flamingo Road.

The initial program zeroed in on youth, and all involved agreed that early intervention is crucial to heading off negative thoughts, including suicide. As the forum progressed, adult intervention was also addressed. Several short film clips were shown of an actual case involving mental health and suicide. The story was of one Linda Bishop of New Hampshire, who began showing negative psychological signs at a young age. By the time she was an adult, things had gotten worse. But like many with mental problems, she was able to project a sense of a calm and healthy outlook when being interviewed by professionals in the medical field. Her family members knew she had a problem(s), but Bishop was always able to conceal her illness when being interviewed by doctors, judges or others who might have been able to provide assistance.

Moderator Matthew Cox spoke for the professionals in attendance when he said, “Some people feel there is nowhere to turn” and as a result, do not seek help even if they realize they need it. Suicide is a problem for veterans and non-veterans across the nation, and in Nevada especially. In the Silver State, suicide is the seventh-leading cause of death according to the Center for Disease Control. But there are several reasons why those afflicted tend to avoid seeking assistance. Individuals understand that admitting to mental problems can create a stigma around them. Some feel that if they say they have problems, their freedom will be taken away. Others think that the way they view things is normal, and “this is how I’m supposed to live my life,” even if their plans often end up badly.

A sister of Bishop shown in film clips talked about how she has diabetes, and she knows she has to take medications to keep it under control. Her illness is physical in nature. Her sister and others with psychological problems had mental illness, and mental illness needs to be treated regularly just as physical illness does. One of the professionals at the forum agreed and pointed out that mental illness can be traced to a bodily organ — the brain. It needs regularly scheduled treatment. Linda Bishop did not seek treatment. She was found deceased in an abandoned home where she had existed mainly by eating apples that grew on a nearby tree. The entire film, entitled “God Knows Where I Am,” will premiere on Vegas PBS Monday, October 15, at 9 p.m.

Several private health providers were present and handed out literature about their services. For example, Healthy Minds is a mental health clinic that provides comprehensive services to children, adults and families. The Bemer Group has a program that focuses on positive blood flow, which among other things helps mental concentration and acuity. Serenity Mental Health offers a multitude of treatments including individual therapy, day treatment, substance abuse and medication management.

Vegas PBS General Manager Tom Axtel told the audience that mental health organizations are community partners with PBS. One agency PBS supports is the Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT), created to provide crisis intervention and support to Nevada families dealing with behavioral or mental health problems. In the past, families have had no choice but to go to the emergency room due to lack of resources or knowledge of available resources. The MCRT is mobile and comes to families. It also provides help over the phone.

The service supports youth (and their families) under the age of 18 showing signs of behavioral or mental health issues. Those issues might pose a threat to the child’s stability within their home, school or community. Some issues can include anger, self-injury, seeing or hearing things, depression and suicidal or homicidal thoughts or behavior. In Southern Nevada, the MCRT number is (702) 486-7865. In Northern Nevada, call (775) 688-1670.   In rural Nevada, dial (702) 486-7865.