Reno: So great, it’s depressing

Contemplating suicide? Reno’s 24-hour hotline at the Crisis Call Center can be reached at (775) 784-8090.

At the end of November, Men’s Health became the latest in a long line of magazines, scientific studies and data reports to list Reno and Las Vegas at the top of its list of the most depressed cities in the United States.

The Men’s Health article based its assertion that Reno and Las Vegas round out its top 10 saddest U.S. cities upon suicide rates and unemployment rates, as well as taking into account the percentages of households using antidepressants and people who reported feeling depressed. The suicide rates came from the Center of Disease Control and unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nevada’s suicide rates have long been among the highest in the nation—in fact, Nevada has the second-highest suicide rate in the country, according to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Suicide Prevention. A 2010 study done by the state’s Health Division reported that Nevadans are more likely to die from suicide than homicide, HIV/AIDS or automobile accidents and that the suicide rate in Nevada is nearly double the national average.

The Western states and, more specifically, rural areas in the West, have higher rates of depression and suicide.

Reno is a difficult place to get out of, and not just in a psychological sense. As it is surrounded on all sides by either snow-covered mountains or large stretches of desert, leaving Reno is a pretty arduous task. And, unfortunately, leaving Reno is an essential step toward reaching one of the many so-close-yet-so-far metropolitan areas on the West Coast. Las Vegas is about eight hours away, as is Los Angeles. Portland, Ore., is about 10 hours away, and Seattle is nearly 13. Although San Francisco can be reached in about four hours, the trip requires a venture through the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

As for the unemployment rate in Nevada causing some depression—well, that makes sense, too. At 13.4 percent in October, Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the United States, and even number two on the list, California, comes in at only 11.7 percent. I feel a little depressed just writing that down. However, if we want to look on the bright side, that is a bit of an improvement from the 14 percent unemployment rate Nevada was facing last year.

In light of this disheartening list-making, it is, of course, important for Nevadans to look on the bright side. Rather than allowing these statistics to depress us further, we can consider them a series of challenges that make living in places like Reno and Las Vegas all the more impressive. You don’t just live in Reno. You survive Reno! To dwell in Reno, you must triumph over the odds that are stacked against you—one of the things we’re supposed to do best here.

If we can withstand all of the emotional curveballs thrown at us because we have selected such a turbulent location in which to reside, we can probably survive anything.

As a lifelong Renoite, I am inclined to respond to these lists with defiance. Yeah, things can look pretty grim sometimes when no one can find a job, and there seems to be no way out.

But there are also signs that things are—albeit slowly—beginning to improve. These things remind me that living in Reno is not all bad. After all, not every town in the world approves of drinking and gambling at all hours of the day.

I’d say that’s worth at least a bit of emotional turmoil.