‘It Changed My Whole Life’: Children’s Minnesota’s Mental Health Support Helped Young Girl Cope With Diabetes

Children's Minnesota is known for the top tier care it offers kids when it comes to their physical health. We also want to highlight what it's doing to support mental health, Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield reports (3:15). WCCO 4 News At 6 - April 7, 2021

Video Transcript

- Children's Minnesota is known for the top-tier care it offers kids when it comes to their physical health.

- But there's more. We also want to highlight what they do to support mental health as well. Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield introduces us to one patient whose future is brighter thanks to one doctor in particular.

SUSAN-ELIZABETH LITTLEFIELD: For Yesica Mercado Munoz of Cottage Grove, her happy childhood got cut short with a sad reality.

YESICA MERCADO MUNOZ: Everything really shifted when I got diagnosed with diabetes. It changed my whole life. Then I had to take on more responsibility as a child that a lot of children didn't have to.

SUSAN-ELIZABETH LITTLEFIELD: At 10 years old, Yesica was losing weight, only 45 pounds, the size of a three-year-old, when a doctor diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She was quickly hospitalized at Children's Minnesota.

YESICA MERCADO MUNOZ: I was starting off with about eight injections a day.

SUSAN-ELIZABETH LITTLEFIELD: The once free spirit was bound by blood-sugar checks every three hours. Over the years, it really started to get to the now 19-year-old U of M sophomore.

YESICA MERCADO MUNOZ: I think it really starts to set in that, because this is a chronic disease, you're going to have it for the rest of your life. And the idea that this will never go away, you're never going to get a break, is really hard on your mental health.

SUSAN-ELIZABETH LITTLEFIELD: She got fatigued while jogging with friends and had to monitor her food as her peers ate freely.

YESICA MERCADO MUNOZ: It's always good to seek out help when you need it.

SUSAN-ELIZABETH LITTLEFIELD: So she did just that at Children's Minnesota, finding an ally in Dr. Sara Gonzalez.

SARA GONZALEZ: The most rewarding part of the job is seeing kids thrive, right?

SUSAN-ELIZABETH LITTLEFIELD: In an innovative collaboration, Dr. Gonzalez works at Children's Minnesota specifically to counsel and strengthen the mental health of diabetes and neurology patients.

SARA GONZALEZ: Patients with diabetes have a higher likelihood than healthy teenagers or kids to have mental-health concerns, anxiety, depression.

SUSAN-ELIZABETH LITTLEFIELD: Case in point, Yesica, who's been getting therapy and life-coping skills.

YESICA MERCADO MUNOZ: She gets me in so many other ways that a lot of psychologists don't get me or will never understand.

SARA GONZALEZ: But mental health is health. It's lessening. The stigma is lessening, but the resources and the access is not quite there.

SUSAN-ELIZABETH LITTLEFIELD: Her hope is that more Minnesotans will donate to Children's to build the mental-health program--

YESICA MERCADO MUNOZ: It has made my well-being so much better. I feel so much happier.

SUSAN-ELIZABETH LITTLEFIELD: --and kids who are happier in the present can focus more on the future.

YESICA MERCADO MUNOZ: And yeah, I would ultimately like to become a physician's assistant, go into PA school, become a physician's assistant, hopefully work for Children's one day.

SUSAN-ELIZABETH LITTLEFIELD: Full circle.

YESICA MERCADO MUNOZ: Full circle, yeah. They're not getting rid of me.

SUSAN-ELIZABETH LITTLEFIELD: Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield, WCCO 4 News.

- Right now, you have the opportunity to help young people like Yesica by donating to Children's Minnesota.

- Donations go to help support programs like the one Yesica was able to take advantage of. So right now you can double your donation thanks to Prime Therapeutics. They are matching any amount up to $15,000. To give, you can text MNBrighter to 50155, or you can just head over to wcco.com/brighter.