A group of just some of the 250 students who attended this year’s Strike the Stigma Symposium.

Florida Blue and the Tampa Bay Lightning continued their commitment to remove the stigma around mental well-being during the second annual Strike the Stigma Symposium with more than 250 students from schools of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties: Tampa Bay Technical High School, Sumner High School, Freedom High School, Robinson High School, Blake High School, Spoto High School, Shorecrest Preparatory School and St. Petersburg High School.

Florida Blue hosted this one-day symposium that engaged area youth and teachers, providing students with the tools and resources to help them flourish, including therapy dogs, yoga, interactive workshops and workshops. Tampa General Hospital was a popular pitstop for students because of Stella and Belle, the two therapy dogs.

Laurie Pacholke, a mother who lost her daughter in 2022 at the age of 27, passionately shared, “We are really trying to remove the stigma and help people understand mental health is like any other illness.”

Pacholke and her husband fondly remember their daughter’s contagious laugh and implored every student at the symposium to treat everyone with kindness.

“Our data clearly shows the need for mental health supports for our youth, and today’s event provides a tremendous opportunity for us to engage students in fun ways while providing practical, accessible tips for daily mental wellness,” said Carrie Zeisse, president and CEO of Tampa Bay Thrives.

This data says:

• High school students with depression are more than two times more likely to drop out than their peers.

• 64.2 percent of Floridians ages 12-17 who have depression did not receive any care in 2022.

Panelists at the symposium include:

• Melanie Green, Building Bulls/Women’s Golf.

• Bianca Romano, University of South Florida student and former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

• Kellan Johnson, former University of South Florida student athlete.

• Laurie and Aaron Pacholke, whose daughter succumbed to suicide.

• The students were also trained to become teen mental health first-aiders.

“We look forward to this event every year,” said Shani Young, director of mental health first aid at Directions for Living. “This is a great opportunity for the community and an unbelievable opportunity for teens.”

Strike the Stigma is a multiyear initiative created in partnership with Florida Blue and Vinik Sports Group to leverage the sport of hockey to provide education and awareness around mental well-being and to help break the stigma. The goal is to provide solutions that can be utilized to achieve positive, sustainable results on the overall mental well-being of the Tampa Bay community.

Previous articleLocal Girl Scouts Help Domestic Violence Survivors At Mary & Martha House
Next articleClothes To Kids Provides Wardrobes For Kids In Need