May is Mental Health Awareness Month, the perfect platform to increase awareness and destigmatize mental health issues – particularly in marginalized communities – and address the toll that’s been taken on people’s mental wellness by the ongoing pandemic.

On Friday, May 13, from 3-7 p.m., a free COVID-19 mental health and wellness community event will take place at the Caribbean Marketplace within Little Haiti Cultural Center, located at 5925 NE Second Ave., in Miami. The event is being organized by RER Consulting LLC in partnership with the center, New Horizons Community Mental Health Center, Ayiti Community Trust and Miami-Dade County.

Its goal is not only to engage people on the subject of mental health and raise awareness of available local resources, but also to provide connections to organizations that promote mental wellness.

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, attending to one’s mental health is more crucial than ever,” said Ruban Roberts, Founder of RER Consulting Enterprise LLC. “Our community event series is designed to raise awareness on the importance of mental health by encouraging the community to prioritize their mental health and physical well-being.”

According to the American Psychological Association, 84% of psychologists who treat anxiety disorders reported seeing an increase in demand for anxiety treatment. Additionally, 72% of psychologists who treat depressive orders have seen a rise in people seeking their services.

“If you are experiencing emotional instability, stress, anxiety and depression, you are not alone. There is help for you through the COVID-19 Mental Health & Wellness Program, assisting you in navigating and gaining access to the mental health services you need in Miami-Dade County,” said Dr. Evalina Bestman, CEO of New Horizons Community Mental Health Center.

Friday’s event will feature a mental health panel at 5 p.m., which is open to the public. The discussion will be co-moderated by Dr. Guerda Nicolas, a University of Miami professor and clinical psychologist, and Nzingah Oniwosan, holistic health consultant and founder of the 365Zing Self-Care App. Panelists include Majorie Lozama, nursing educator and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner; Jean Evelliard, homeless and residential program director at New Horizons; Jonathan Spikes, Affirming Youth executive director; and Yanatha Desouvre, Miami Dade College entrepreneurship professor.

Organizers hope the conversation will empower families living with mental health challenges break down barriers associated with seeking therapy – and how to find it.

The day will also include a series of workshops and symposiums to equip residents with pandemic and disaster-coping skills. The goal is to provide all Miami-Dade County residents with the tools they need to respond, reassess, recover and renew their lives to better cope and thrive the pandemic-era “new normal.”