Breaking mental health stigma among Tampa Bay youth

Tampa, Florida (WFLA) – Experts say the pandemic has only amplified mental health conditions among children.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data between February and March of 2021 shows that emergency visits for suspected suicide attempts are up more than 50% compared to the same time frame in 2019.

“When I was in middle school, I struggled a lot with social anxiety,” said Emma McGuire, a freshman at Alonso High School. “For me, it wasn’t a safe feeling. I felt so exposed, and I feel like I had no one to talk to about my suffering.”

Now that McGuire is in high school, she has started a mental health club and hopes to take the mental health discussion to elementary school.

From the school shooting to ‘Am I going to get Covid? To “Is it safe?” mental health educator Natasha Beer said, “I am just not happy that things at home have changed.”

Pierre said high school and university students are among the populations most at risk. Suicide in this age group is the second leading cause of death.

“I think there’s a stigma because people don’t know how to respond to people with mental health issues or a crisis,” McGuire said.

The Negative Stigma That Florida Blue and Tampa Bay Lightning Are Changing—With the Strike Stigma of Mental Health Symposium. It is a multi-year initiative created in partnership with Florida Blue and Vinik Sports Group to leverage the sport of hockey to provide education and awareness about mental wellbeing. The goal is to provide solutions that can be used to achieve positive and sustainable outcomes for the overall mental well-being of the Tampa Bay community.

“We are going to need everyone — students, parents, principals, private citizens — it will take the entire village to attack the stigma,” Derrick Brooks, founder of Derrick Brooks Charities and former linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Pierre says students today suffer from pressures that previous generations did not have.

She said, “If we have a population and a generation that doesn’t want to be here, doesn’t feel like there is a space or a place for them, what does that say about them?”

Sometimes a child will not share with a parent.

“They feel this is the added stress on a parent who is already experiencing stress, so they will take it and hold on to it and consider less healthy options to relieve stress,” said Pierre.

Pierre encourages parents to pay attention to their children’s changes and to involve them in counseling as soon as possible. There are also resources that include:
The National Suicide Prevention Line by calling 988 for help and Tampa Bay Cares at 211.

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