'People are dying because of silence:' Experts encourage change for Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental health generic
Posted at 7:22 AM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 07:33:39-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Mental Health advocates are pushing for change to normalize the conversation around mental health while working to expand access to care to make it more available.

“We need to normalize the conversation because people are suffering in silence. People are dying because of silence,” said Natasha Pierre, a Mental Health Educator.

The more we talk about mental health, the more people will feel comfortable to get help.

Experts say that’s one of the main reasons behind Mental Health Awareness Month.

“We like to say that if you strained your ankle or broke your toe you wouldn’t think twice about going to the doctor and getting that looked at right? But it’s not quite seen the same way when somebody is struggling emotionally, mentally,” said Joseph Nohava, Therapist for Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

That’s why advocates are pushing for changes and normalizing the conversation around mental health while working to expand access to care to make it more available.

Experts say they’ve seen a rise in mental illnesses throughout the pandemic, with anxiety being one of the most common concerns.

“That comes in all forms. Right behind that would be people dealing with depression,” said Pierre.

Signs someone may be struggling include:

  • changes in behavior
  • rapid mood fluctuations
  • excessive crying
  • losing interest in activities
  • eating too much
  • eating too little
  • sleeping too much
  • sleeping too little

Pierre said people shouldn’t ignore these symptoms if they see them.

“Have the conversation in that moment. Put aside your fear of saying something wrong. Put aside your fear of not getting it right and just ask listen, I’m noticing this — this is what I see. Do you want to talk about it? How can I support you? How can I be there for you?” she added.

"Getting help doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to call in and get counseling right? It can start with just talking to someone that you’re close with, that you trust that you feel good with. Saying 'hey I got this going on it doesn’t feel right can we talk about it?'" said Nohava.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.

Which means most people know someone who is struggling — whether openly or not.

“There are people very close to you who are doing two things simultaneously. They’re fighting for their life, fighting for their sanity and their peace while also leading business meetings and running organizations and going into the court rooms. So my ask is that we be a little bit more kind, extend compassion, extend empathy, recognizing we never know the full story of what anyone is experiencing,” said Pierre.