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Surge of Student Suicides Pushes Las Vegas Schools to Reopen

This fall, when most school districts decided not to reopen, more parents began to speak out. The parents of a 14-year-old boy in Maryland who killed himself in October described how their son “gave up” after his district decided not to return in the fall. In December, an 11-year-old boy in Sacramento shot himself during his Zoom class. Weeks later, the father of a teenager in Maine attributed his son’s suicide to the isolation of the pandemic.

“We knew he was upset because he was no longer able to participate in his school activities, football,” Jay Smith told a local television station. “We never guessed it was this bad.”

President Biden has laid out a robust plan to speed vaccinations, expand coronavirus testing and spend billions of dollars to help districts reopen most of their schools in his first 100 days in office.

By then, children in districts like Clark County, with more than 300,000 students, will have been out of school for more than a year.

“Every day, it feels like we have run out time,” Dr. Jara said.

Heading into the pandemic, youth suicide rates had been on the rise for a decade; by 2018, suicide had become the second-leading cause of death for youth and young adults, behind accidents. And the most recent behavioral risk survey, which was released last year by the C.D.C. and tracks health trends of high school students, shows a steady rise over the last decade in the percentage of students who say they felt persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, as well as in those who planned and tried suicide.

Since the lockdowns, districts are reporting suicide clusters, Dr. Massetti of the C.D.C. said, and many said they were struggling to connect students with services.

“Without in-person instruction, there is a gap that is right now being unfilled,” she said.

Suzie Button, the senior clinical director for high school programming at the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit based in New York that works on suicide prevention, said hundreds of schools and colleges — including Clark County’s — are teaming up with the organization to better serve students during the pandemic.

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