WASHINGTON DC — The transition from high school to college can be extremely difficult for teens, especially those who struggle with their mental health.
This week, a U.S. Senate committee heard from high school student Brooklyn Williams about her own struggles and about how to empower these teens in need.
Williams was just 13 years old when she lost her mother to breast cancer.
“The following year was a blur of numbness and therapy sessions,” Williams said.
The high school senior testified before Congress about her struggles with anxiety and depression in the wake of her loss.
As a way to cope, Williams says she found comfort in painting and crafts.
So she started what’s called the “Chill Club” at her school in Western Pennsylvania, an offshoot of the Allegheny Health Network’s Chill Project.
Students do crafts, yoga and meditation to cope with mental health challenges.
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“I thought, ‘If this is making me feel better, then maybe it will make others feel better too,’” Williams said.
Williams’ testimony highlighted the struggles many teens are facing around the country.
According to lawmakers, about half of all people who experience a mental health condition start having symptoms by age 14, meaning high school is a critical time for addressing their needs.
“To reach every student, we need all hands on deck. That means far more mental health professionals,” Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey said.
“Three years of COVID have just had their toll upon the mental health of adolescents and college students,” Lousiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said.
Youth mental health experts called on Congress to invest more into access to mental health services for teenagers at home and at school.
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“Establish comprehensive school mental health systems in all schools,” Dr. Sharon Hoover of theUniversity of Maryland School of Medicine said.
Williams urged lawmakers to act fast.
“I feel like schools and communities only intervene when it becomes intensely severe or, in unfortunate cases, too late,” Williams said.
The lawmakers on this Senate committee say around one in five teens in the country meets the criteria for a mental health condition.
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