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Tennessee lawmakers boost funding for mental health resources

Symptoms of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents have nearly doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Tennessee lawmakers are increasing funding in the mental health field.

Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) recently sponsored a budget amendment to give $500,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations across the state.

Massey explained one of the key ways to help children cope is through mentorship.

"People need relationships. We were made for that, and when you have some issues to begin with, and then you get isolated, it just makes it worse," Massey said.

More than 90 children are currently on the waiting list for mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee.

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The Knoxville-based non-profit has partnered with the Metro Drug Coalition to certify every member of its staff in youth mental health first aid.

"We know that youth are going to face barriers in life. This is one, and so helping them discover ways to cope with them in healthy ways, is where we really fit as a part of the spectrum of care when it comes to this mental health crisis," CEO of BBBS of East TN Tyler Boldin said.

In December, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a rare public advisory, warning of a devastating mental health crisis among American children.

Symptoms of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents have nearly doubled during the Covid pandemic.

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TN Voices, a statewide mental health non-profit has teamed up with Telemedicine Solutions to launch a free app that would make it easier for young people in the state to ask for help.

The MindPower app provides students with mental health resources in the palm of their hands.

The research-based tool includes a screening test for depression and checks on students to see how they're feeling.

It also allows young people to get parental consent for a more involved assessment and access the services of a treatment provider.

The app was tested this spring at three middle Tennessee schools.

The Youth Villages Specialized Crisis Services has specially trained crisis counselors available 24 hours a day in Tennessee to respond to crises rapidly and effectively.

Staff will provide assessments and evaluations of children up to the age of 18 who are experiencing a psychiatric emergency anywhere in the state.

If you or someone you know is needing help, you can call the Tennessee Statewide Crisis Hotline at 1-855-274-7471 or text "TN" to 741741. 

You can also call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. 

Click here for more resources.

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