TAMPA, Fla. – The city of Tampa had its main bridges and buildings lit up in green Sunday night to recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month. The effort by the non-profit Tampa Bay Thrives is meant to raise awareness about care options, especially for teens facing a mental health crisis.
Sunday night, green lights lit up downtown Tampa. From the Riverwalk to Old City Hall, major buildings and bridges were shining bright with an emerald hue. For people struggling with a mental health crisis, it’s a reminder that they’re not alone and that help is available.
“If we can decrease the stigma and start to normalize talking about mental health just as if it is our physical health it will go a long way toward helping people heal faster and feel better,” Tampa Bay Thrives President & CEO Carrie Zeisse said.
Zeisse with Tampa Bay Thrives helped organize the effort. The organization was formed back in 2019 to try and mobilize the community and help strengthen behavioral health outcomes for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder.
Right now, Zeisse says the mental health of teens is especially vulnerable considering the impact of social media and the pandemic.
“The most important thing you can do is listen non-judgementally. Ask open questions. Let the child know that you’re there, and you want to listen. Sometimes just having that first ear to talk to really can be the significant motivator for someone getting help,” Zeisse said.
According to the 2022 State of Mental Health in America report from the organization Mental Health America, nearly 50 million Americans, which is about 20 percent of the population, are experiencing a mental illness. Of those adults, more than half don’t receive treatment.
Zeisse hopes when people who are struggling see the green lights they’ll know help is available.
“It is completely normal to want to talk to someone and just because you’re having a bad day or a bad moment or going through an episode right now that’s tough you certainly can feel better. Don’t give up hope. Help is there,” Zeisse said.