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High school student urges lawmakers to help teens struggling with their mental health

The transition from high school to college can be extremely difficult for teens, especially those struggling with their mental health.

This week a US Senate committee heard from high school student Brooklyn Williams about her own struggles and 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 mix of deafness and therapy sessions,” Williams said.

The high school senior testified before Congress about her struggles with anxiety and depression after her loss.

As a way of dealing with it, Williams says she’s found solace in painting and crafting.

So she started what she called the Chill Club, an offshoot of the Allegheny Health Network’s Chill Project, at her school in western Pennsylvania.

Students practice arts and crafts, yoga and meditation to cope with mental health issues.

“I thought, ‘If this makes me feel better, maybe other people will feel better too,’” Williams said.

William’s statement highlighted the struggles faced by many teenagers across the country.

According to lawmakers, about half of all people who have a mental illness will experience symptoms by age 14, meaning high school is a crucial time to address their needs.

“To reach every student, we need all hands on deck. That means far more mental health professionals,” said Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

“Three years of COVID has just taken its toll on the mental health of teens and college students,” said Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy.

Adolescent mental health experts called on Congress to invest more in access to mental health services for teens at home and at school.

“Design comprehensive school mental health systems in all schools,” said Dr. Sharon Hoover from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Williams urged lawmakers to act quickly.

“I feel like schools and communities only step in when things get very serious, or too late in unfortunate cases,” Williams said.

Lawmakers on this Senate committee say about one in five teenagers in the country meets the criteria for a mental illness.

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