EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — It is well-documented, the impact the pandemic has had on the mental health of young people. Wednesday, a local US Senator co-presided over a hearing to help ease what’s become a crisis.

The numbers are staggering according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). One in five American adolescents lives with a mental health disorder. One of them is Pittsburgh teenager Brooklyn Williams, a senior at Baldwin High School and founder of the Chill Club.

“Looking at me, you might not suspect that I’m dealing with a lot of internal struggles. I am speaking in public so you might not suspect that I have severe social anxiety,” Williams said.

Williams joined a panel of witnesses to testify Wednesday before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on children and families.

The topic was ‘Caring for Our Kids: Supporting Mental Health in the Transition from High School to College.’

Besides anxiety, Williams testified she also suffers from other conditions including insomnia, bulimia, and depression.

“I feel like schools and communities only intervene when it becomes intensely severe or, in unfortunate cases, too late,” added Williams.

Democratic Senator Bob Casey, who chairs this senate subcommittee, and Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana introduced legislation in June to increase pediatric mental health care access funding.

“So accessing timely mental health care that is covered by insurance shouldn’t feel like winning the lottery. It should be the same as getting care for any other health condition,” Senator Casey said.

Conditions that other panelists say are overlooked and underrated.

“They’re not preventable but there are strategies to mitigate risks such as early detection. They are manageable but management does not mean doing the bare minimum,” explained MPH Ashley Weiss, Director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry at Tulane University, School of Medicine.

“To optimize the success of our high school and college students, we must invest in nurturing environments at every level of their development,” said Doctor Sharon Hoover, Professor of Psychiatry & Co-Director of the National Center for School of Mental Health.

For teens like Williams, solutions can help navigate the tricky transition to adulthood.

“Working through these issues will not only give opportunities for teens to grow and flourish into adults but also to allow our communities to be stronger as we improve the way of life one kid at a time,” Williams continued.

Williams founded the student support group, the Chill Club at Baldwin High School.

It provides activities like meditation, yoga, and crafts, as well as a chance for students to talk through their emotions.