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13-Year-Old Shares Struggles With Mental Health to Shine Light on Disparities in Services

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EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) -- Being a teenager and dealing with hormones, school and family dynamics can tough enough, so when you add mental health struggles on top, it can really get to kids.

For Ezrealla Heard, 13, better known as Ezi, being scared of losing her family's love led her to stay quiet about her feelings for two years.

"Stuff just started happening to me, and I wasn't sure what was going on, so I didn't say anything because I was confused and scared," Heard, who is known for her colorful wigs, said. "I thought my mom wouldn't like me anymore, so she'd push me away."

"I thought my mom wouldn't like me anymore, so she'd push me away."

She eventually overcame this fear when the secret became too much to bear.

"It was going on for a while, and it didn't stop. I was like, 'I need to get some help.' So I told my mom," she said.

The admission was a life-altering moment for Ezi's mom Karly Smith.

"As a parent, that's not something that you're prepared to handle, I feel. I didn't know how to help her," Smith said.

The single mom of three tried to get her oldest daughter some help locally with no luck.

"That's really frustrating, to try and get help, at least when they need it. You have to wait months for any of these kids to get help and that's what we had to do with [Ezi]," she explained.

Their situation is one that many face.

According to the Wisconsin Office of Children's Mental Health, one in five kids in the Badger State will experience a mental disorder each year. Also, 44% of children who have a major depression diagnosis, do not receive services.

"You have to get help and there is no help. When your kid says they want to kill themselves that's a serious thing," Smith said.

Worried about coming home to a tragedy, Smith admitted her daughter to a facility three hours away. She said it was the only one with an opening after months of calling.

"That's a big issue because she needed help when she told me," she said.

Far from home, alone and upset, the 13-year-old diagnosed with a mood disorder did not think she would leave the facility leaving any better. To her surprise, she did.

"I know you're not supposed to like it," Heard said.

"But I liked it because there were other people who were like me. Who were also going through struggles and also had some problems. It was pretty helpful to see other people, and talk to them and learn that there are other people, and it's not just me."

So she decided to share her story to bring awareness to the disparities in child mental health and to let others her age know it is okay, to not, be okay.

"I'm doing to this to show them that it's okay to have mental illnesses and that you're still human and stuff. They shouldn't be scared because someone will always love them. A friend, family, a partner. Someone will always love them," she said through tearful eyes.

To help other children admitted at Bellin Psychiatric Cente in Green Bay, Smith is collecting monetary donations, clothing, hygiene products and underwear to give to the adolescents in the program.

For Ezi, being able to have her own clothes and personal items helped make her 12-day stay there more comforting. Smith wants to give other children that same experience.

For the clothes to be accepted they must be free of hoods, strings and metal. You can email Smith at ezkar243@gmail.com for more information on how to donate.

If you would like to help Ezi on her road to recovery and continuous need for medical services, you can donate to her GoFundMe "Help Ezi Heal."

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Stephanie Rodriguez

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