When Mildred Jimenez's daughter was in 8th grade, the family felt like they hit an emotional wall.
“We had a really hard time trying to figure out what we could do for her," Jimenez said.
She was a mother at a loss for how to help her daughter who was struggling with anxiety. And Jimenez was not alone.
The CDC reports that people of all ages, across the country struggling more with mental health and substance abuse during the pandemic.
Sally Starr works with PRS, a Fairfax County nonprofit that helps connect families with different services. She said that in addition to increasing symptoms, the pandemic is also slowing down services.
“We're seeing extended wait time processes for hospitalization, we're seeing longer wait lists for outpatient and things like that,” Starr said.
To help, PRS is expanding its peer support services. People who have experienced their own loved ones' struggle with mental health or substance abuse get training on how to use their own experience to guide families through tough times.
“So having someone come in and validate your feelings and let you know that yes, it makes sense that you feel hopeless and that you feel afraid right now because your child, the person you're taking care of, is at risk,” Starr said.
Having helped her own daughter find the support she needed, Jimenez is now doing just that for others, knowing just how tough this can be for families who are already juggling so much.
She said parents should never feel ashamed in asking for help to get to a better place.
“The feedback is always like okay this is going to get better, it's not going to stay where we are right now and I'm like exactly, there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Jimenez said.