State Sen. Becca Rausch has filed a budget amendment to provide $250,000 in funding for a pilot program for a youth mental health support text line.
The amendment for the fiscal 2022 budget was approved by the senate last week, said Rausch, a Needham Democrat who represents Attleboro, North Attleboro, Plainville, Wrentham and Norfolk.
The funds would help Samaritans, Inc. of Boston to develop a text service accessible to youths in the state regardless of insurance, income or background, she said.
For 40 years, Samaritans has provided life-saving suicide prevention services and non-judgmental support throughout the state.
The text line will have dedicated staffing from Samaritans to train and oversee teen volunteers providing evidence-based suicide prevention and mental health support, according to Rausch.
The funds will also support marketing and communications to promote the service, suicide prevention and mental health support workshops for youth, as well as culturally- sensitive and linguistically-appropriate services to reach diverse communities.
“The idea for this pilot program came directly from many of the youth I represent,” Rausch said in a statement.
During a virtual student legislative forum in her district, Rausch said constituents spoke about classmates they lost to suicide and the real fears they faced when deciding to seek help for mental health problems.
According to Mental Health America, almost 8 percent of youths in the U.S. have severe depression and 60 percent of them do not receive any mental health treatment.
Rates of depression are highest among youth who identify as more than one race, at 12.4 percent, according to the organization.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, youths ages 11-17 have been more likely than any other age group to score for moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Samaritans has trained more than 5,250 volunteers in befriending skills, provided suicide prevention workshops to 135,000 individuals and lent aid and support to 13,000 individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide.