By LOIS KINDLE
When it comes to thriving in this world, our mental health is just as important as our physical health. But many folks fail to recognize this and seek help, even in the best of conditions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse. Seniors are isolated from their loved ones; children are struggling with home schooling; parents are stressed over related discipline problems and helping cover their kids’ lessons, while trying to work to support their families; healthcare workers and caregivers are exhausted; people have lost their jobs or businesses; and others grapple with the tedium of following COVID protocols. Many of these folks need help, but they don’t know where to turn.
Thanks to a $50,000 grant from Hillsborough County’s R3 Safety Net program and a partnership between Seniors in Service and the South Shore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging, South Shore area residents who need mental health services can receive them here in the community through the end of the year. Being able to afford them is not an issue.
“The South Shore Mental Health Initiative is (available) for a limited time with limited funds, so it’s being offered on a first-come, first-served basis,” said Seniors in Service CEO Robin Engles. “We will have nine therapists and counselors available – four psychologists, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and four licensed mental health counselors. “I encourage anyone who feels they need help to reach out. Prolonged stress and isolation can turn into physical and mental illness.”
Participants will initially be screened by a licensed mental health counselor to determine what kind of help and therapist they need and whether or not their insurance can be utilized to cover some of the cost involved. Help is available to supplement co-pays and deductibles.
“If you don’t have the means to pay, the grant funding will fill the gap by covering the cost,” said Debbie Caneen, president of the South Shore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging. “The whole point of the grant is to make therapy possible, regardless of anyone’s ability to pay.
“The counseling sessions can take place in your home through telemedicine or at one of two convenient locations: Sun Towers or the United Methodist Church of Sun City Center,” Caneen added. “A private room will be made available with someone to set up a one-on-one session with a licensed mental health professional, and then leave.”
Consider your needs
If you are experiencing one of more of the following symptoms, you could benefit from this program:
• Long-lasting sadness or irritability
• Extremely high and low moods
• Excessive fear, worry or anxiety
• Social withdrawal
• Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
• Little or no interest or pleasure in doing things
• Feeling down, depressed or hopeless.
“A lot of folks have never experienced mental health counseling, but they’ve never experienced anything like what we’re going through right now,” said Anna Lively, LMHC. “This program gives people the opportunity to receive this type of (help) at no cost to them. If this is something you need, don’t wait.”
Caneen agrees. “Don’t allow any preconceived thoughts about therapy to keep you from taking advantage of this awesome opportunity,” she said. “We can all use a little help to get through tough times.”
The South Shore Mental Health Initiative is open to all South Shore residents. To sign up, visit https://bit.ly/2IE5QHe or call 813-582-3600 and submit your contact information. Someone from the South Shore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging will get back to you within 48 hours.