National Alliance on Mental Illness in Sarasota and Manatee counties offers help for those struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic

By Colleen Thayer
Guest Columnist

COVID-19 has taken a toll on our communities. Across the world, we are experiencing financial insecurity, anxiety over job situations and transitioning to working and schooling from home. With these life challenges, it is not uncommon to have days where you feel sad, frustrated, stressed, or anxious.

In a survey taken between Oct. 28 and Nov. 9, 2020 by the U.S. Census Bureau, more than one in four Americans reported feeling anxious more than half of the previous seven days. Nearly one in five reported having felt depressed. Nearly 30% of Floridians reported feeling anxious at least half of the time — more than the national average of 27.5%.

How do you know when to seek help? If you or someone you love has had symptoms lasting two weeks or more, seek professional help. Symptoms indicating a mental health condition can include, but may not be limited to the following: difficulty sleeping, appetite changes resulting in unwanted weight loss or gains, struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of your mood, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable, inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities, excessive use of drugs and alcohol, and thoughts of death or self-harm.

Locally, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Sarasota and Manatee Counties has free, confidential peer-led support groups and classes. You are not alone. Help is available.

NAMI support groups and classes are offered both online and safely in-person and include resources specific to navigating COVID-19’s effect on our mental health.

Check on neighbors, friends, and co-workers along with the elderly who may be feeling a deeper isolation as they avoid day-to-day activities. Our website includes a list of resources on COVID-19. Together, we can support one another and ensure all people are getting the help and support they need to not only navigate the holiday season but all year long.

For a full schedule of available groups and classes, visit

Colleen Thayer serves as the executive director of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Sarasota and Manatee Counties. In that role, she is responsible for management and growth of the affiliate along with its education, support, and advocacy programs. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.