Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota is sharing her experiences with depression for the first time as she calls for more federal funding for mental health programs.
The Democrat said she battled depression as a teenager and again in her late 30s, the Star Tribune reported.
“It just sort of feels like all the colors in the world start to fade out,” Smith said. “The things that gave you a lot of joy, there’s nothing there anymore.”
Smith said help was available whenever she needed it, and that she sought out therapy and eventually went on medication. But she said she realizes that isn’t the case for everyone.
She believes that sharing her story can build mental health awareness and political momentum for a measure that would bring more support services to schools.
Smith is pushing for Congress to approve $1 billion in grants over five years for school districts to partner with local organizations to provide mental health services.
She said she decided to speak out about her experiences because she felt she was omitting an important part of the conversation when engaging with mental health issues as a lawmaker.
“It started to feel weird that I wasn’t just saying, ‘Hey, I’m relating to this personally,'” she said.
Many school districts across the county have programs to help offer mental health treatment to students. Districts often partner with clinics in their communities, but it can create insurance and logistical issues for families, said Sue Abderholden, who leads the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“If mom and dad both work or otherwise don’t have the ability to drive there twice a week, that can put a big strain on being able to receive the service,” said Emily Dierling, a school counselor in Stewartville.
Making treatment available directly in schools “would make a lot of sense for a lot of families,” Dierling said.
Smith’s measure only has support from Democrats in the GOP-controlled Senate at the moment.