Across Tampa Bay, significantly more residents missed work this year due to poor mental health than last year, a follow-up survey commissioned by Tampa Bay Thrives found. Fourteen percent of respondents reported missing work, corresponding to 524,500 missed workdays a month and approximately 6.3 million missed workdays per year across the region. This is 2 million more workdays missed than last year.
This baseline of the community’s perceptions, practices, and experiences related to mental health in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk counties showed not only the need for mental health services, but the stigma attached to it.
Cost of care continued to be the #1 barrier to receiving needed mental health care, while affordability and availability for everyone continued to be the top change that residents want to make to help with mental health in their area.
- Tampa Bay area residents were nearly twice as likely to reach out to local organizations and programs in 2023 when looking to find a mental health professional.
- There was a decrease in people consulting professional clinicians or primary care doctors for help with mental health issues. Instead, they are more likely to go to their family members, friends who are not roommates, and significant others. This is likely due to Tampa Bay area residents feeling more comfortable discussing these issues with friends and family.
In addition to the survey, Tampa Bay Thrives and the University of South Florida’s Mental Health Law and Policy (LHLP) Department conducted focus groups with local community members throughout 2022 and 2023 to gain insight into perceptions of mental health and behavioral health needs within Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk counties.
Researchers found that the primary reasons for not seeking behavioral health services were:
- difficulties with system navigation, financial barriers/insurance or lack thereof
- difficulty with finding an appropriate provider that matched the participant’s needs and cultural background
- not prioritizing behavioral health services
- finding a provider that shares their lived experience
- and fear of being judged or labeled
These results speak to the need for systems of care to prioritize mental health destigmatization, reduce unnecessary system navigation barriers, and improve provider cultural competence training.
“Our latest survey and focus group findings confirm what we have suspected all along – that we are still struggling with residual stress that has impacted our community over the last three years,” said Carrie Zeisse, president & CEO of Tampa Bay Thrives. “Our mental well-being touches all aspects of our lives, from our homes to our schools, workplaces and interpersonal relationships. We want people to know that there is help and there is hope. You are not alone.”
Tampa Bay Thrives’ warm support line, Let’s Talk Tampa Bay, is available for residents of Tampa Bay who need someone to talk to. It provides a compassionate space for individuals to share their thoughts and feelings and receive emotional support. Let’s Talk specialists can connect residents with local mental health providers for appointments, in-person and virtual, and assist in recommending pathways to care. This service includes several additional options to connect directly to help, such as:
- short-term telehealth bridge counseling from the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay for individuals facing long wait times to get into their first appointment.
- navigation to local behavioral health providers for immediate care appointments at BayCare, Tampa General Hospital, and AdventHealth locations in Hillsborough and Polk, with expansion in Pinellas in late 2023
- follow up calls at 7-day and 21-days to ensure residents receive the care that fits for them
- self-service online resource database of local and telehealth providers
All of these options are available by calling Let’s Talk at 844-YOU-OKAY.
Additionally, Tampa Bay Thrives is a proud affiliate of Mental Health America and offers a free online screening tool for a quick and easy way to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. You may take the Mental Health Test here.
Watch our webinar, Breaking the Silence: Uncovering Mental Health Stigmas in Tampa Bay, below.