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For more than five decades, the Tampa Chamber has introduced participants to major facets of the Tampa Bay community through its executive leadership program, Leadership Tampa.

The cohorts go behind the scenes by taking part in experiences over nine months that include shadowing teachers for a day, having candid conversations with community leaders, and visiting first responders.

But one theme that weaves its way throughout the program no matter the activity is the mental health and wellbeing of its workforce across the region.

Leadership Tampa sets aside a day to highlight mental health and wellness, called Health Care Day.

Over the years, Leadership Tampa has included conversations with BayCare, Gracepoint, Tampa Bay Thrives, and the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. These conversations take place on Health Care Day as well as on Education and First Responders Days. They provide an overview of mental health and discuss resources that are available while helping break the stigma of mental health.

“If it’s important to the business community and the Tampa Bay area at large, it’s got to be something our leaders need to hear about and expand their knowledge of,” said Michelle Ciudad Real, Senior Director of Leadership Programs for the Tampa Chamber. “The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the subsequent quarantines and social isolation brought the issue of mental health to the forefront.”

To better align herself with the needs, Ciudad Real completed an Adult Mental Health First Aid course, which teaches how to recognize signs of mental health or substance use challenges, what to say, and how to help individuals find the resources for them to seek further assistance.

“As we show each class the challenges and assets in the Tampa Bay region, it’s information they take back to their workplaces and circles of influence,” she said. “Over the years, we’ve seen our LT commitment to mental health empower many businesses, local organizations and associations to serve as a bridge connecting persons in need with experts and resources that can help. Ultimately, that can transform countless lives and raise community awareness of mental health across the board.”

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