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Behavioral Health Experts Warn Mental Health Tsunami Will Hit Florida in Next Six Months

Photo: Anthony Tran

Experts say by next fall, more Floridians could need help responding to the trauma of two simultaneous disasters. 

CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay Clara Reynolds says they’ve received thousands of calls daily to the national 211 hotline since the start of the pandemic.

Reynolds’ comments came at a mental health round table today with Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis. 

She said most of those calls which would have taken seven minutes before mid-March, now take fifteen to twenty minutes and can range from problems with finances to homeschooling. 

And she expects the problem will only get worse with a behavioral health tsunami on its way to Florida in the coming months.

“It will take about six months if you look at trauma and you look at post-traumatic issues, it takes about six months before they’ll happen. And so all of us are preparing for an October, November time.”

Reynolds said she’s particularly worried about rises in suicide if people don’t get mental health help because of the stigma around it. 

Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell said telehealth could help with this.

He said it’s one thing to make mental health and addiction services available, it’s another for people to go.

But making a therapy session available in a person’s home means they’re more likely to show up.

“You know early on we’re talking about forty percent differences in show-up rates in some parts of the state. We’re really excited about what we’ve learned and what we can take forward to help.”

The state recorded 156 new coronavirus-related deaths today, and more than 129,000 people filed unemployment claims last week. 

To be connected with counseling services in your area, call or text 211, unless it is an emergency, in which case dial 911. 

If you’d like to listen to this story, click on the clips above.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter & Fill-in Host

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and Vox. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, ... Read Full Bio »