PORTLAND (WGME) -- Mental health concerns are getting worse for kids and teens.
A new federal report says girls and LGBTQ+ high school students, in particular, are seeing much higher rates of persistent sadness or hopelessness compared to their peers.
That report offered a glimpse into the serious crisis children went through early on in the pandemic.
Advocates say there is one great way to reach kids who need the support in school.
“She didn’t want to do her work,” parent Kristen McAuley said.
McAuley's daughter struggled with the transition to middle school early on in the pandemic.
“There were times in remote learning she was almost like curling in on herself,” McAuley said.
Her once energetic, involved and bright pre-teen had her light diminished.
She says it took about half a year before her daughter acknowledged it might be good to see someone.
“Then it took a couple more months to actually find a counselor that was available to talk to her,” McAuley said.
“We all have waiting lists that go on for months and months,” Rep. Lydia Crafts (D-Damariscotta) said.
Crafts is an outpatient counselor and state representative.
“My hope is that it's really going to reduce some of the barriers that families are facing in trying to connect their kids with the type of support they need,” Crafts said.
To do that, she's introducing a bill that would:
“Being in the school, that eliminates a barrier right there,” school-based clinician Phoebe Smith said. “I’m where the children are.”
Smith is a school-based clinician with Sweetser.
“We're seeing everything from anxiety, depression, pretty standard mental health needs,” Smith said.
She sees about 5-10 kids a day and works inside two South Portland schools.
Smith is able to help them and their families.
“It’s super easy for me to collaborate with the school as well as outside with Sweetser for case management or additional services,” Smith said.
As for McAuley, she feels fortunate to have found help for her daughter.
“There's still a long way ahead, but we're also grateful to be where we're at,” McAuley said.
CBS13 is partnering with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, for "Sinclair Cares: Mental Health Support and Hope."
It's a campaign to encourage mental health awareness, with a focus on young adults.
NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
Sinclair Cares will host a town hall discussing mental health awareness on March 25 on CBS13 at 5 p.m.
You can also learn more about resources and support groups in the area here.