Senator and Intern

The Work of a Senator

SC Senator Mike Fanning has announced the hire of Intern Natalie Pickren to serve as Senate Mental Health Advisor


“In light of recent tragic events involving SC school children, today, we call for a state commitment to bringing the discussion of ‘Teen Mental Illness’ out-of- the-darkness and into the public conversation. To do this, we must commit to placing Mental Health Counselors into ALL SC public schools and letting our young people know that there is help available for those suffering from mental illness,” said Fanning.

Ms. Pickren will serve as a Special Advisor on Mental Health issues facing teenagers across the state. She will provide the senator with a “student’s perspective” on how Mental Illness affects students and the entire community... and will work to bring awareness to the epidemic of teen suicide in SC. Natalie has been exposed to the impacts of mental health issues at a young age and has developed a platform “#OK2Talk” – providing information to young people & letting them know that they are not alone with their illness. She is active with the SC Chapter of NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness) and has worked in her community & across SC on this issue. Natalie has been the featured speaker at many teen health forums across the state and has volunteered in Hospitals and Community organizations across the Upstate.

Today, Natalie attended several Senate Committee meetings with me. Then we enjoyed a “working lunch” - where I sat back and simply listened to Natalie as she shared with me state data on the needs of SC teens... and her proposals for addressing this growing epidemic. Following lunch, we met with Governor McMaster, who was similarly impressed with Natalie’s passion & vision on this critical issue and agreed to help us lift the conversation into the public sphere statewide. Natalie Pickren is finishing her Junior year at James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, South Carolina where she holds a 5.22 GPA and is ranked in the Top 10 out of over 600 students in her graduating class. She is a member of the Carolina Youth Symphony Orchestra and has been honored as 1st Chair Cello in the Upper State All-Region Orchestra. Natalie is a member of the National Beta Club, the National Honor Society, the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Civitan Service Club. Natalie was also the featured Solo Cellist this past fall performing with the State Champion James F. Byrnes Marching Rebel Regiment. She will perform at Carnegie Hall this spring representing the Carolina Youth Symphony Orchestra in New York.

A former Miss Simpsonville Teen & Miss South Carolina Teen semifinalist, Natalie has used every platform she’s had to push the conversations... bringing teen Mental Health issues out of the darkness into the light. Natalie is currently deciding among her college options where she will pursue a career in Medicine as either a Pediatrician or Child Psychologist. She is considering Duke, Vanderbilt, the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, William and Mary and Wofford for her college education. Natalie’s local Senator Scott Talley & I are each pushing Wofford...but are both excited to see all the great things she will go on to do with her life!