Samantha Degrasse sat on the ground outside The Factory and rifled through a white box.
Inside the package was bath bombs, journals, pens, lotion and other goods that might give someone a boost on an otherwise bad day. Degrasse and her daughter’s group, Build Her a Bridge, thought of the project as a way to help girls and women when they go through a rough patch.
The goal was to get the boxes put together by May as a nod to Mental Health Awareness month.
“I feel like in general it’s a good idea and you never know what someone is going through,” Battle Ground Academy student Zoe Hawkersmith said. “It will give a little bit of happiness.”
The boxes from Build Her a Bridge will go to Middle Tennessee counseling centers and mental health nonprofits. They will also go to Youth Villages, Rogers Behavioral, the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention and the City of Franklin Police Department. Members of Build Her a Bridge collected all the contents for the boxes through donations.
In recent weeks, Franklin has been doing more to address the city’s needs. Franklin Mayor Ken Moore unveiled FindHopeFranklin.com, which is the newest resource he’s unfurled since his blue ribbon task force for mental health formed in 2019.
The website provides resources to 24/7 lines for those in the middle of mental health crisis, along with resources for therapy, support lines, community health care centers and information on prescription discounts. Visitors to the site can also interact with a self evaluation of their own mental health that will remain confidential.
The call volume in Franklin has continued to rise during the last decade. While fewer residents died by suicide in 2019, more threatened to take their lives. In total, Franklin police officers handled 197 mental health related calls. Seven people died, 150 threatened and 40 attempted. At least four death by suicides have happened near or on the Natchez Trace Bridge in 2020.
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Members of Build Her a Bridge said they’ve seen mental health needs among their friends in middle school and high school. They said the internet and social media have made life harder among their age demographic.
That’s why the group said they hoped their boxes went to girls and women who find themselves feeling down and hope it will prove as a turnaround. The group is open to any girl wanting to perform service projects in the community.
“Don’t give up,” Battle Ground Academy student Anna Sgarbi said. “Because if you do, you let the person who hurt you win and they don’t deserve that. Don’t let those people win, because they shouldn’t win that control over you.”
Emily West is a reporter for The Tennessean, covering Franklin and Williamson County. Follow her on Twitter @emwest22 and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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