The nonprofit, which serves girls in Williamson County ages 12-18, began in October 2018 when founder Samantha DeGrasse’s daughter, Sophia, and her friends would meet at their home to talk about everything from relationship issues to faith and how different families may look.
When the group grew to more than 15 girls, DeGrasse said she and her daughter began plans to formalize the group, adding monthly meetings with guest speakers and activities.
“That was when I started thinking, ‘Maybe there’s something here—maybe having a girls group that’s outside of school or church or outside of sports, but just a place where girls can really feel comfortable gathering together to talk,” she said.
The group, which has now grown to 24 girls, has also placed signs of encouragement and hope along the Natchez Trace Bridge, which has been a site of suicides in the area. During 2020, the group has held virtual meetings with speakers covering how to deal with stress and anxiety. DeGrasse said she also hopes to launch Build Him a Bridge, a similar program with mentors for teen boys, in spring or summer.
In October 2019, when one of the group’s members lost a sibling to suicide, DeGrasse met with parents and learned about the stigma around openly discussing depression and mental health.
“She was the sweetest teenage girl, and people have talked so positively about her, and yet she was struggling with a mental health issue,” she said. “So it goes to show that anyone can walk around here as if they have it all together, and they really, really don’t because they have the ideation of suicide.”
DeGrasse, who has a background in education, said this inspired her to start two new programs that will be launched in January. The first, a counseling program, will help connect girls to licensed therapists and will help fund sessions to bring costs for families down from $50-$55 a session to around $15-$20 per session.
The group has two counselors signed on but needs more based on demand.
The nonprofit will also launch a mentorship program, which DeGrasse said has already attracted a number of diverse female mentors in a variety of backgrounds. The mentors go through a background check process and commit for a minimum of one year, she said.
Looking forward, DeGrasse said she hopes the organization will help build up the next generation of girls to become leaders in the community.
“They’re going to be our teachers; they’re going to be our law enforcement; they’re going to be our aldermen; ... and we want them to be successful, but we don’t want them to have the mental health [issues] and the anxiety and depression anymore because I believe that you can, with resources, be free from that or have tools to help you,” she said.
Build Her a Bridge
There are a number of local and national resources for those who may be struggling with a mental health crisis.
Tennessee Statewide Crisis Line
This hotline is operated by trained mental health professionals and is available 24/7.
Crisis Text Line
Individuals can text TN to 741741 to be connected to a trained counselor.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
This free, 24/7 hotline is available in English and Spanish for anyone in emotional distress.
Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network
This Nashville-based network offers resources for individuals experiencing mental health issues and for their families. Families can learn about warning signs to look for as well as where to find mental health screenings and training to help prevent suicide.
How to help
Build Her a Bridge is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works with young girls in the Williamson County area.
Tax-deductible donations go to help fund counseling costs as well as supplies and other expenses for the nonprofit.
The nonprofit is launching a mentor program to help provide young girls with guidance and someone to talk to. Mentors must pass a background check and be able to commit for at least one year. To learn more about the mentorship, email firstname.lastname@example.org.