On Tuesday, February 12, I had the opportunity to testify before Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker at a budget hearing. I shared my story on how I overcame depression thanks to counseling. I advocated for more mental health services for youth and families of Prince George’s County. In our County and across the nation there are not enough mental health services to meet the needs of community members. I hope this budget season, youth and families in need of services are not forgotten.
Here is my testimony: Good evening County Executive and fellow community members. Thank you County Executive for allowing me, andPrince George’s County residents with the opportunity to talk about issues we are concerned about as you plan the County’s budget. My name is Anaissa Escobar. I am a Riverdale resident and aYouth Leader at the Latin American Youth Center/Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers also known as MMYC.
Tonight, I want to share my story. And how my life has improved because ofmental health counseling.
At 15 years old I dropped out of high school because I got pregnant. I knew I had to work to take care of my child. But I also knew that education was critical. I started going to night school and while in night school I had a second baby. Dealing with work, and being a young mother was really difficult. And on top of that, my mother passed away when I was 16 years old. I lost my best friend, my main supporter. My world was crushed. I became depressed.
There was a lot on my plate to deal with. I had to grow up fast. Back then I did not know there were counselors that I could see to help me deal with my problems. My life went on, as I knew it, challenging, busy, and stressful and what seemed like a life with little options. That was until I discovered the MMYC’s GED program, through which I first learned about how counselorshelp people release stress, anger and depression. Mental health services at schools and community centers, where young people like me already go to, are crucial.
Since I started seeing a counselor, my life has been easier. When I was depressed and stressed out I had a hard time coping with issues and dealing with people. If talking to a counselor has made my life better, I know that other youth like me who may be experiencing problems could also benefit from services. Occasionally, I hear people say negative comments about youth like we don’t want to work hard or we just want to get into trouble but the truth is that sometimes we do not have the right support.
We do not know where to go when we have problems and once we do sometimes we have to wait a long time to get the services or we don’t find services at all. Based on my experience, I know what can make a difference. Mental health and preventative services provide youth and families with the chance to deal with issues before they escalate into bigger problems.
Because I know what is like to experience depression and what it means to come out of it, I have become a mental health advocate through MMYC’s Puentesor Bridges Leadership Program. Mental health services are important not just for the well-being of young people but also for our entire community. Executive Baker, I know that you are a mental health supporter. This budget season please do not forget youth like me. Youth who want to strive but who face barriers because of our daily stressors. Please protect and increase funding for mental health services for Prince George’s County youth and families. We need services at schools, at community centers or other places where youth already go to.
Puentes: Bridging Youth to Healthy Behaviors is an initiative led by the Latin American Youth Center/Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers in collaboration with multiple stakeholders in northern Prince George's County that strives to increase public understanding of and public support for mental health services to youth and their families, particularly for the Spanish-speaking immigrant community. Students in the Puentes Leadership Program gain the tools to talk about the issues that impact their lives through public speaking lessons, media and advocacy training. Puentes is supported by the Consumer Health Foundation.