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Big Brothers Big Sisters helping kids overcome mental stress

Volunteer mentors are key to a child's mind
Posted at 1:35 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 14:00:02-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Mental health struggles don't discriminate when it comes to race, gender or age. Children are often affected by the pain of anxiety and stress, just like adults. One community organization is helping kids in their (sometimes difficult) journey through adolescence.

One in five children between 13 and 18 years old have experienced symptoms of a mental health crisis, like anxiety or depression. Causes range from genetics to difficult home situations. Since the pandemic, there has been an uptick in mental health issues due to a lack of socialization. One local psychologist says that kids shouldn't go through these problems by themselves.

Dr. Jay Reeve, President and CEO of the Apalachee Center, said "they shouldn't have to do it alone especially when you're talking about kids. This is not a do-it-yourself project. Kids need the support of their parents, kids need the support of their friends, they need support from the community, they need support from their teachers, in some cases, they need the support from professionals."

Children facing mental health struggles often just need someone to talk to. And Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend is a place where they can do that, where youth and adults can spend quality time together. Going to events, doing homework, or just hanging out gives a volunteer mentor, known as a Big, the chance to be with a kid even for just an hour a week. Oftentimes these kids come from single-parent homes, have a parent incarcerated, or are in the foster care system.

Summer Boggs, Vice President of Programs at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend, added "a lot of our volunteers might have had mental health struggles in their past as well and they might really be able to connect with a youth on some of those points, it's really important for a Big to make that connection with that youth and really just being there, being a friend to them, offering an ear to them to able to voice their problems is just really helpful for our youth."

Big Brothers Big Sisters is working on a campaign to get 50 new volunteer mentors in 50 days. Bigs are matched with their Littles based on personalities. A lot of the time, Bigs can identify kids' emotions and help them process their feelings, which can change their attitude about life.

Dr. Reeve mentioned, "just having a single adult that's connected, who is supportive and connected to a child like a big brother or a big sister is enough to really change the trajectory of a kid's life based on their development of resiliency factors that come from that relationship."

350 kids are paired up right now, but there is a list still waiting to be assigned new volunteers. The goal is to reach 600 kids in the next year.

Click here to get involved!