February 21, 2024

The death of a Shelbyville 11-year-old shows limited mental health resources in rural TN

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Shelbyville police said Patricia Sylvester admitted to killing her 11-year-old son, Esteban, and trying to kill her 4-year-old son.

Now behind bars, Sylvester’s family are worried about his mental health.

“She is very deeply depressed; she needs to be evaluated for her mental state,” said Joyce Sylvester, Patricia’s mother.

Joyce also said her daughter has been depressed for years and doesn’t know why she wasn’t getting help.

Patricia’s court hearing has been pushed to September 12 to include results from her mental health evaluation, according to the court clerk.

However, if Patricia’s mother is found to be correct that her daughter is struggling with severe depression, she is not alone.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation37.3% of Tennessee adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression during a February 2023 survey. The group also found that there are only enough mental health professionals in the state to meet about 16% of mental health needs.

“I know that our children and adults in this community lack resources to receive mental health services,” said Bedford County Schools Director Dr. Tammy Garrett. “Our children in Tennessee need access, especially in rural areas like ours.”

Esteban attended Bedford County Schools from the time he was in kindergarten.

Garrett explained that children and families have access to fewer resources during the summer months.

“School is the safe place, and when we have these situations, especially when school isn’t in session yet, to know that the kids don’t have to rely on us in their safe place … it just breaks your heart for this kid,” she said.

Center stone works with schools and counties throughout Tennessee to provide mental health services and has a facility in Bedford County.

Clinical Supervisor Dan Mansfield said rural communities like Shelbyville can present unique challenges for providers.

“There seems to be more clients and more needs,” Mansfield said. “It is difficult to combine that with vacancies in some areas.

Mansfield explained that rural communities are sometimes more spread out, have less access to public transportation and taxis, and often have limited access to the internet.

“There are times when we have to be creative to meet the needs of our community, but we are rising to the challenge,” he said.

Centerstone has a number that people can call if they want to seek professional help.

In addition, if you or someone you know is having suicidal or homicidal thoughts, a professional is always available by calling or texting 988.

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