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Black Lives Matter Tampa tackles mental health issues during pandemic and civil unrest

Posted at 6:29 PM, Jul 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-25 20:43:35-04

TAMPA, Fla. — In an effort to help people who are stressed and mentally drained due to the pandemic and civil unrest, Black Lives Matter Tampa and a local licensed mental health counselor have joined forces.

“It’s been a hectic time,” said Cory Weckerle.

Weckerle is a co-found of BLM Tampa, which has organized several of the protests across the Tampa Bay area.

The killing of Ahmad Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked the recent civil unrest across the country. But, as Weckerle, put it “This is for all of the countless black and brown men and women unjustly killed in America.”

“We’ve been losing people constantly, regardless of all the protesting that we’ve done and the strides that were made to move in the right direction,” he said.

Underneath the loud chants, the angry and sad faces and the tears, there are millions of protesters with broken hearts and mental frustration.

“It’s a tough space to operate in when you are constantly dealing with grief, sorrow and death,” Weckerle said. “I don’t think a lot of people actually take the time to think about the mental toll this has on activists and organizers.”

That’s why Jennifer Young got involved. She’s a licensed mental health counselor.

“I was watching the local protesters be harmed,” she said. “I was watching black folks putting their bodies in harms way to just stand up for their community.”

Young got with BLM Tampa to organize mental health training sessions. Learning how to control his emotions is one of the main takeaways Weckerle says he got from the session.

Young said staying calm and in control starts with learning how to deactivate your amygdala. It prevents people from having panic attacks.

“It’s the part of the brain that assesses the environment and determines if something is dangerous to us,” she said.

In honor of National Black Indigenous People of Color Mental Health Month, a national organization called “The Well for Life” is hosting several virtual “Healing While Black” virtual sessions from July 31 to August 1. For more information, click here.

BLM Tampa and Young will be hosting another virtual mental health session on August 9 at 2 p.m. For more information, click here.