By Raiyana Malone
The Mental Health Council of the Big Bend recently hosted the first ever Southside Mental Health and Wellness Fair for residents on the Southside of Tallahassee.
According to a health assessment recently released by the Florida Department of Health, black families with children are four times more likely to be in poverty than white families with children. That means 30 percent of blacks are below the poverty level, compared with 7% among whites.
The poverty levels among Southside residents have a direct link to whether or not they obtain the health services they need.
It is because of these striking facts that the Mental Health Council of the Big Bend and Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) decided to invite over 20 community leaders and health care officials to help foster a change by hosting the mental health fair.
Te Mental Health Council and FAMU also provided food as well as raffle prizes and face-painting for kids.
County Commissioner Bill Proctor was among those selected to speak at the event.
“I know we need [mental healthcare] … We are the ones whose voices have to be amplified so those persons who are in the state Capitol can make the allotment of resources that we can have to serve our families,” he said.
Proctor, who is also a professor at FAMU, said he hopes that the Mental Health Council and others will provide a game plan for a healthcare facility geared towards Southside residents that is worthy of tax-payer dollars.
Jay Reeve, CEO of the Apalachee Center, and organizer of the fair, had big plans for the future of mental-health awareness on the Southside.
“What we’re looking at now and for the next five years is that we are looking at targeting the specific issues we found in our research; particularly in the Southside there are high levels of anxiety and depression…some of that with folks not having been connected with services,” said Reeve.
Reeve wants to make sure that folks in the community are connected with the services that are provided through events such as the Mental Health and Wellness fair.
Fear of judgement and other issues in the community often prevent Southside residents from getting the help that they need.
Organizers of the fair provided community citizens with a hands-on experience that centered around getting citizens comfortable with seeking the help that is available.
“In five years there’s no one in Tallahassee that [shouldn’t] know where they can go to get help,” said Reeve.