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How Program To Help Kids Struggling With Anxiety, Depression Is Putting A Song In Their Hearts

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- We've reported a lot the past few years on how bad the pandemic is on kid's mental health. But we would like to share some of the good that's being done to support teenagers, from a program using music as medicine.

The songs that come from Lily Erlandson's mouth reflect the words of her heart. For the Blake High School junior, it's been a brutal two years.

"It's definitely been hard to be isolated," she said. "With online school, it was hard not to see friends everyday."

She's been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. So Erlandson uses her voice to control the chatter in her head.

"It feels like a part of my brain is sort of talking at me all the time, and telling me like I'm not good enough, or you can't do this and you can't do that," she said.

She's one of the many patients at the overflowing Adolescent Day Treatment Center at Masonic Children's Hospital, focusing on teens in need of mental health assistance.

"We have seen that absolutely skyrocket, especially because of those expressing behavioral health crises because of depression and anxiety," music therapist Kendri Ebert said.

"I love learning new instruments and messing around and I think it's something that can help a lot of other people here in the program to and just people everywhere," Erlandson said.

But the problem is the day center instruments aren't exactly finely tuned, in a matter of speaking. They're about 40 years old.

"Our therapy program at the hospital is wonderfully old, and with that come old instruments," Ebert said. "We had drums with spill stains on them. The heads of the drums were like bubbling up."

It was a troubling situation that caught the attention of a local man whose gotten a lot of attention for his 15 years in the NHL: retired hockey player Paul Martin.

"For these kids to have, you know, a creative outlet to express themselves for whatever journey they're on, you know, going through tough times, just to kind of find something they connect with is really important," Martin said.

Sports was his own outlet. Now, Martin funnels his passion into Shine the Light, a nonprofit he leads to support kids' mental health. His team donated about $5,000 worth of new instruments for Erlandson and her peers.

"Hopefully it gets kids through tough times and through good times, and they get to learn a little bit about themselves and what's going on inside of them," Martin said.

By the looks and, especially, sound of things, they are feeling it.

"We're very appreciative for this instrumentation update because it was very, very necessary to provide our patients with the highest quality music that we can," Ebert said.

Here are links to learn more about Martin's Shine a Light Foundation, as well as the Masonic Children's Hospital's youth counseling programs.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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