Virtual group therapy offered to Bay Area residents, free of charge

Experts say COVID-19 is taking a toll on everyone’s mental health. The number of people seeking help from crisis counselors is up ten-fold.

A Tampa Bay area organization is trying to provide some comfort.

More than 26 million Americans have lost their jobs because of the novel coronavirus. Many are out of money, losing sleep, worried, and isolated – leading to what some say is a pending mental health crisis in the U.S.

“People are dealing with stress from every area of their life. Especially financial stress,” explained Erica Nelson with Harvest Hope.

The national crisis hotline for people suffering from emotional distress has seen nearly a 900% jump in calls and locally, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay’s 211 hotline calls have doubled. They are working to find more people to answer the phones.

“What people are dealing with is social isolation and that’s directly connected to anxiety and depression,” explained Sarah Combs with the University Area Community Development Corporation, which is also working to help Tampa residents cope.

Starting Thursday, they are offering free, closed virtual group therapy sessions through video conference.

“We are seeing anxiety, fear, depression, shame and we want people to know there’s ways to deal with this,” Combs said.

She says there are some ways to battle mental health issues on a daily basis, like establishing a routine, taking plenty of breaks, light exercise, and eating healthy foods -- but most importantly, talk to someone.

“Anyone actually can log in and ask questions and get the support that they need,” Combs said of the group therapy sessions.

For information on how you can join that group therapy session from your computer, visit

To join the Zoom meeting, visit just prior to start time each Thursday. A Zoom account is not required for participation. For individuals with Zoom accounts, the Meeting ID is 532 239 435.