New public awareness campaign underway to help those with mental illness during pandemic

Grief and mental illness are increasing amid the pandemic according to experts, and a campaign is hoping to help bring hope to millions of people.

"It has been absolutely a very hard week. I am getting teary-eyed just thinking about it. I think the absence was greater than I anticipated," said Marilu Garza who lost her mother a few months ago. "I don’t want to say that this is the new norm. I hate that. I absolutely hate that because there was nothing wrong with the old norm."

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As someone who is always consoling others who are grieving, she is now taking a step she never thought - getting help herself.

"Asking for help and being vulnerable is the first step toward getting help. A lot of people see mental health issues as something to be ashamed of, actually asking for help and talking about those mental health issues, they are doing everything they can to not give up and ensure they are getting what they need," said Dr. Julie Kaplow, the executive director at the Trauma and Grief Center at The Hackett Center for Mental Health in Houston.

They help support the 'Ok to Say' public awareness campaign to destigmatize mental illness by letting people know it's ok to talk openly about it.

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Mental health affects everyone. You could be someone going through a struggle or someone who can support.

"As supporters, we don’t have to fix it. I think that there’s a strong tendency among all of us to take away the pain or stop the pain altogether. Recognize that bearing witness to the pain and being a comforting and listening ear is sometimes the most important thing you can do," said Kaplow.

Although very hard for her, Marilu says she has decided to talk to someone professional.

"Heading into the new year, I don’t know what that is going to bring, and I hate what happened in 2020, but some very important things happened that I am not going to let go of. I am not going to let COVID take it away. I am going to treasure those moments and try to find a silver lining somewhere," said Garza.

To find out more about the campaign, click here