Now that hundreds of people have found some solace after the Sept. 10 memorial service for Kiely Rodni — whose body was found in Prosser Creek Reservoir after she went missing from an Aug. 5 party — many Truckee/Tahoe residents continue to suffer from the loss of their friend, child, student, or acquaintance. In addition, several have reeled from the at-times horrific defamation and uninformed accusations and theorizations that have occurred on social media.
Fear likely propelled some of the wilder speculation, but other factors — including financial gain, fame, and/or addiction — have also figured in. Locally, mental health experts have geared up to help on many fronts.
Tahoe and Truckee are unique communities — both small and full of people who are tightly connected by schools, volunteer jobs, work, and outdoor activities.
“Everybody is one degree of separation apart here,” said Phebe Bell, Nevada County’s behavioral health director. “It’s like we’re a giant high school.” Nevada County’s Behavioral Health Department particularly serves Medi-Cal recipients and those with severe mental illness but can link anyone who calls with the help they need, Bell said.
Not everyone needs professional help, Bell added, but now is an especially good time to pay attention to and lean on the existing resources all of us have. Those include family members, friends, counselors, or “whatever activities ground you, heal you, or soothe you,” like hiking, jumping in a lake, going for a walk, or taking a mountain bike ride.
“Probably the best thing we can do is to keep open lines of communication going,” Bell said. “Talk with your teen about making safe choices and ways they can reach out to their peers, their family, or other trusted adults if they are unsure about a situation or need help.”
And, Bell reminds, teens are not the only ones affected. “This situation reminds us of the scary reality that we can do all the right things; we can love our child fiercely, and bad things can still happen,” she said. “That is a more difficult thing to discuss with our children and to think about for ourselves. It is important to acknowledge the powerlessness and fear that brings up for us as parents and to try to work through that on our own, versus bringing that fear in the form of anxiety to our parenting role. Parenting a young adult is a delicate dance of guidance and support alongside letting go and offering more freedom.”
Help is available through behavioral and mental health providers in many different sectors.
Tahoe Truckee Unified School District officials urge parents to reach out to schools for help if they need it. An emailed message went out to parents very quickly after Rodni went missing.
“They’re not alone,” said Jeff Santos, executive director of student services at the district. “We’ve got counseling available for all of our schools — our three high schools and any middle schools.” North Tahoe and Truckee high schools each have wellness centers that are open during school hours.
A recent letter to parents shared numbers they can call for advice or help, Santos said, including:
- Truckee High School: (530) 582-2600
- North Tahoe High School: (530) 581-7000
- Sierra High School: (530) 582-2640
- Alder Creek Middle School: (530) 582-2750
- North Tahoe Middle School: (530) 581-7050
- Sierra Community House (which also has a Spanish-speakers service): (530) 546-0952
Family members can also turn to the nonprofit Gateway Mountain Center, at (530) 426-2110 to discuss nature-based healing programs and one-on-one mentorships in which a person is paired with a guide who takes them on a two- to-three-hour excursion. Additionally, Sierra Community House, which has several Truckee/North Tahoe locations, provides Spanish speaker services, and can connect people to whatever help they need. The group can be reached at (800) 736-1060.
Residents can also contact private counselors and psychiatrists. Tahoe Forest Hospital’s website provides a comprehensive list of groups, professionals, and agencies prepared to help. The hospital also lists other mental health resources, including private counselors and therapists, available in the community, including support for pain, despair, fear, and suicidal thoughts. A new three-digit number for help with suicidal thoughts is 988, or people can contact the Tahoe Truckee Suicide Prevention Coalition at tahoelifeline.org.
Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation has posted an expanded list of resources on this helpful web page.
“Navigating access to mental health care can be challenging based on a number of factors,” said Jazmin Breaux, Nevada County’s Tahoe/Truckee program manager. “TTCC has been facilitating a behavioral health strategic planning process in our community. As a result, they have been able to gather lots of data regarding mental health access in our community.”
Across the Truckee/North Tahoe community, residents and visitors are thinking about Rodni, her teachers, her friends, and her family members. The school district’s Santos conveyed best the sense of helplessness and loss that many people have been expressing: “We’re all beside ourselves with everything.”