WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — Christmas is already a vulnerable time for people who live with mental health issues. When you add the pandemic on top of it, The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay says the number of suicidal calls it gets has doubled.
Derek Perez-Piris and his girlfriend Dr. Kasey Cowser are trying to bring awareness to the issue by conducting something they call Alysa’s 12 Days of Giving.
“It all planned around my sister, my sister passed away two years ago from mental health and suicide, at age 20, after fighting it for a long time and she was a strong girl, an amazing woman,” said Perez-Piris.
“Seeing Derek struggle and his family struggle a lot with this we wanted to do something that could spread the awareness like it’s OK to reach out for help,” said Dr. Cowser.
So the couple’s business, Smile Craft Dental Studio, teamed up with other local businesses, to raffle off $2,500 in prizes and gift certificates as a way to promote the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and the 211 hotline.
“They came to us and said you know what your biggest issue is, that folks don’t know you are there,” said Clara Reynolds, President and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. “We need more people to know about 211 so that their family members, their loved ones, can reach out for help when they need it.”
The raffles take place daily on the Smile Craft Dental Studio Facebook page. They are free to enter and so far they’ve had more than 2,000 submissions. The latest one took place at Highland Axe Throwing.
“Rebecca and I, our families have experienced mental health issues, we have intimate feelings unfortunately of mental health issues, and we really wanted to participate as soon as we heard about it,” said Owner Brian DeCook.
Derek and Kasey say every time they pull a name out of the bag it feels like they aren’t just announcing a winner, they’re impacting a life.
“We actually had one winner say what a great cause and she is so grateful because her daughter is 12 and she is struggling right now,” said Dr. Cowser.
There is one last raffle still to be drawn on Christmas Eve.
For more information go to the Smile Craft Dental Studio Facebook page and for more information on the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay go to www.crisiscenter.com.