When Michele Smith's brother passed away 10 years ago, The LIFE Center of the Suncoast in Tampa helped her process the sudden loss.
"They helped my grief tremendously. They helped my brain heal from the traumatic loss I had experienced, and they're just an amazing group," she explained.
So when a close friend suddenly died this year, Michele went back for more support.
"It's really good self-care. And there's nothing to be ashamed of. We have to start normalizing these conversations about mental health and how important it is to have good practices and good support systems," she said.
The LIFE Center even helped her deal with the extra stress and anxiety from this pandemic.
"Mental health is part of adulting. You go to the gym, you need to get a brain tune-up here or there. We all need support and make sure we can navigate the intense stress we've been under," she said.
"The demand has not decreased a bit, actually it has increased," explained Cindy Kocher, who's President of The LIFE Center's board of directors.
Kocher says demand for mental health assistance has spiked, especially for those grieving who cannot afford to seek help.
"This is the agency that they can turn to because it's either free service or very cost-effective service," Kocher said.
Right now, The LIFE Center offers virtual therapy for individuals and groups and has relied on donations from the community since opening in 1981.
"Some of our therapists are actually volunteers. They're so committed to the work we do that they actually volunteer their services. And that's been a huge gift to The LIFE Center over the years," she explained.
The LIFE Center also receives a grant from the state of Florida's "Victims of Crime Act" to offer grief and trauma counseling at no cost.
"There's been an increase in domestic violence. There's been an increase in crime, especially domestic crime and an increase in suicide," Kocher said.
And with coronavirus cases continuing to rise, The LIFE Center is assisting anyone having a hard time.
"Right now, we're offering a wonderful free service 'managing stress and wellness during COVID-19,'" she explained.
So if you're hesitant to seek help, Kocher says, please just make the call.
"You are loved. You are not alone. And there are opportunities for you to get help. All you have to do is ask."
The LIFE Center of the Suncoast offers free grief counseling, discounted therapy sessions, monthly support groups and workshops ranging from no cost to just $30.
The LIFE Center of the Sun-coast, Inc.
6811 N. Central Avenue
Tampa, FL 33604
Also, donations from the community are down 60% from a year ago. So if you'd like to donate, click here: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/thelifecenter6811