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Mental health summit focuses on spike in anxiety, depression with COVID-19

Minorities may face higher risk
Posted at 7:25 PM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 21:01:07-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- St. Petersburg mental health leaders are working to erase the stigma of mental health and connect more people with help.

Concerns over COVID-19, coinciding with racial tensions and job losses have led to a spike in the number of people showing signs of anxiety and depression. One-third of Americans report having severe anxiety since the pandemic started, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“That’s hard on our bodies, our minds and our spirits,” Dr. LaDonna Butler, who heads up the Well for Life in South St. Petersburg explained.

Mental health experts say despite the spike in depression and anxiety, too many are nervous to admit they need help.

Reverend Watson L. Haynes II, the president and CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League says that’s a problem.

“We’ve gotta move the skeletons out of the closet and talk about it,” he elaborated.

Rev. Haynes and Dr. Butler are on a mission. As part of minority mental health month, they’ll be launching a virtual summit Friday, July 31 called Healing While Black.

“There’s a lot of anxiety around COVID-19 and racial tensions right now. There’s anxiety around talking about it, and anxiety in reliving their past experiences,” Butler said.

“Especially in the African-American community, we don’t know where to go for help,” Haynes added.

700 people have already registered for the online summit which runs Friday through Saturday and focuses on hope and healing.

“The best thing we can do is give them hope for today because we don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like,” Haynes said.

For the first time the summit is donation based, meaning it’s free for everyone, but if you can afford to give, you’re welcome to.

“The conference allows us to come together and collectively struggle as well as strategize with each other so that next year we’re not having the exact same conversation,” Butler explained.

Butler and Haynes hope to spread the message that while this year is tough, we are tougher…and in this together.

There’s still time to register for the summit. You can click here to get more information on how to sign up.

Haynes and Butler are encouraging everyone to join in on the conversations and help reduce the stigma of mental health. You can read more about the speakers and schedule if you click here.