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'It took some extreme circumstances to get her the intense therapy she needed' | Knoxville mom and daughter share struggles to find mental health help

A report from the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee found less than 10% of therapists in private practice are accepting new patients.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — 40% of people living in Knox County are battling a mental health issue, according to a report from the Mental Health Association.

People are struggling and resources to help them are in short supply. 

"I just kind of always felt empty," Annabelle Emert said. She has struggled for years with her mental health. 

"Eighth-grade year, she got hit in the face with a discus at track practice," Kimberly Turner, Emert's mom, said. Emert was treated and released from the hospital with a concussion, but months later Turner says her daughter was still concussed. 

"That was several more months of intense treatment with physical therapy, ocular therapy, some cognitive therapy and talk therapy to work through those issues," Turner said.

Emert's mental health declined.  

"In school, she still struggled making friends, still struggled with certain issues with depression and anxiety," Turner said. 

And then came the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"I was sad a lot, frustrated that I was when I was mad. My moods were very all over the place," Emert said. 

"I think people with mental health issues they need to be around other people. They need to get out and not be stuck in a tiny box all day long," Turner said.

The fight to get Emert the help she needed began. Experts who specialize in talk therapy were hard to find. 

A report from the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee found more than half of the people in Knox County who need help don't have access to help and less than 10% of therapists in private practice are accepting new patients.

One local psychologist sees this too. 

"Part of what we're dealing with as a country is just not enough people who do this kind of work, who work with kids in particular. We have not enough psychiatry for sure,"  Director of Psychology Services at East Tennessee Children's Hospital Dr. Janis Neece said.

"It took some extreme circumstances to get her the intense therapy that she needed to get the right medication and to get her on the path to wellness and success," Turner said.

These sessions can cost anywhere from $450 to $600 dollars which further complicates the issue. 

"It's hard, you are your child's advocate," Turner said. "And you'll do, I would assume most parents will do whatever it takes to make sure that they get what they need for a positive, successful future and it's hard."

"I don't think I would have been able to do it without my mom. She really got me through a lot of it. I don't think I would have been able to do it without her," Emert said. 

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