ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – A popular radio personality in Tampa Bay opens up about mental health in hopes of helping others break the stigma.

As pandemic stress continues to impact our daily lives, Dr. Jamie Fernandez, Medical Director of Psychiatry at the Memorial Hospital in Tampa says we need to have more conversations about mental health in order to break the stigma.

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“I think with things like stigma, what perpetuates that is when people aren’t willing to freely talk about it. Of course, you could understand with mental illness why people could be reluctant to come forward and share their emotions and talk about what they’ve struggled with,” said Dr. Fernandez.

While understandably difficult to speak about, it shouldn’t be enough reason to avoid the topic. After losing a family member to a mental health illness, 97X radio personality and mental health advocate, Samantha Blowers agrees that “talking about it actually makes it easier.”

“You don’t realize that if you just kind of open up, you can gain a lot of friends, you can gain a lot of support. Then, in ways, support yourself. I didn’t realize how much weight I was struggling with mentally, kind of carrying that weight around,” said Blowers.

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A weight that Dr. Fernandez says is common in humans, but clarifies that having support is crucial. “We know from the research that societal interconnectedness — having friends, having family, having a good social circle with support, is what protects us when times get stressful. It’s what helps us be resilient.”

“Sometimes it can feel embarrassing, shameful to just say ‘I can’t cope with this stress of my daily life’ — or ‘I’m feeling anxious’ or ‘I’m feeling down’ or ‘I’m feeling overwhelmed’. But really what we know is that the way to help others through these things and the way to decrease stigma is to talk about it. It’s to communicate and is to show compassion for one another.”

The more frequent conversations around mental health occur, the more the future of treatments can change. Dr. Fernandez says, “This isn’t something that we need to hide in the shadows about. It’s okay to talk about it and by doing so, that’s the best way to start really reducing what has been historical negative perceptions about mental health.”

Dr. Fernandez was sure to emphasize, “If you are in need of help, don’t be afraid to ask for it because not only are these real diseases but they are treatable diseases. So, the real tragedy is in not getting the help that you need.”

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To that point, Blowers reflected, “It could have helped my dad. It definitely helped me and I think it could help other people.”