Right now you have the opportunity to help young people like Yesica Mercado Munoz by donating to Children’s Minnesota. Donations go to help support programs like the one she was able to take advantage of.

To give you can text “MN Brighter” to 50155 or just head to wcco.com/brighter.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Children’s Minnesota is known for the top-tier care they offer kids when it comes to their physical health.

But today we want to highlight what they’re doing to support kids’ mental health as well.

For Yesica Mercado Munoz of Cottage Grove, her happy childhood got cut short with a sad reality.

(credit: CBS)

“Everything really shifted when I got diagnosed with diabetes. It changed my whole life,” Mercado Munoz said. “And I had to take on more responsibility as a child that a lot of children didn’t have to.”

At 10 years old, Mercado Munoz was losing weight — she was only 45 pounds, the size of a 3-year-old — when a doctor diagnosed her with Type 1 diabetes. She was quickly hospitalized at Children’s Minnesota.

“I was starting off with about eight injections a day,” she said.

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 University of Minnesota sophomore.

“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,” she said. “And that idea that this will never go away, you’re never going to get a break is really hard on your mental health.”

She got fatigued while jogging with friends and had to monitor her food as her peers ate freely.

“It’s always good to seek out help when you need it,” Mercado Munoz said.

So she did just that at Children’s Minnesota, finding an ally in Dr. Sarah Gonzalez.

“The most rewarding part of the job is seeing kids thrive,” Gonzalez said.

In an innovative collaboration, Gonzalez works at Children’s Minnesota specifically to counsel and strengthen the mental health of diabetes and neurology patients.

“Patients with diabetes have a higher likelihood than healthy teenagers or kids to have mental health concerns, anxiety, depression,” Gonzalez said.

Case in point, Mercado Munoz, who’s been getting therapy and life coping skills from Gonzalez.

“She gets me in so many other ways that a lot of psychologists just don’t get me or others will never understand,” Mercado Munoz said.

“Mental health is health,” Gonzalez said. “The stigma is lessening, but the resources and the access is not quite there.”

Her hope is that more Minnesotans will donate to Children’s to help build the mental health program.

“It has made my wellbeing so much better, I feel so much happier,” Mercado Munoz said

And kids who are happier in the present make for a brighter future.

“I would ultimately like to become a physician’s assistant, go to PA school, become a physician’s assistant and hopefully work for Children’s one day,” Mercado Munoz said. “They’re not getting rid of me.”

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield