TAMPA, Fla. — In health care, if you want to attack a problem, the earlier you catch it, the better your chances.

That’s why mental health has become center stage post-pandemic.

What You Need To Know

  • Mental health has become center stage post-pandemic

  • Local nonprofit Hailey’s Voice of Hope was founded by Lisa Acierno

  • Lisa's daughter Hailey, 17, took her life as she suffered with mental health issues

  • More on the fight against Mental Health Issues, Tuesday, May 23 on Spectrum Bay News 9 in a special program at 9 p.m.

The stigma associated with mental health disorders, over the years, has kept many from getting the care they need, in some cases to survive.

That has been the mission of Hailey’s Voice of Hope, a nonprofit organization that has roots dating back to 2017.

Hailey Acierno, 17, took her life as she suffered with mental health issues, the severity of those issues hidden from those who knew her best.

“These school districts are big, and it’s not like you can just walk in the door and have someone say, 'Yep, we’re going to do that,'” said Hailey’s Voice of Hope President and Founder Lisa Acierno.

Hailey was a vibrant teenager who attended Wharton High School. Hailey also was Acierno's daughter.

Since Hailey's death, Acierno has been working to raise funds and awareness about mental health issues, and help fund programs in Hillsborough County Schools to increase training for administrators and raise awareness for students.

In recent years, Hailey’s Voice of Hope has funded a special training session for local school administrators, as well as a training program called PREPaRE 2 for counselors and school psychologists.

This school year, it also funded the distribution of 150,000 brochures targeting mental health awareness, suicide, bullying and sexual harassment.

Acierno said the group is hoping to expand PREPaRE 2 and the brochures to Pasco County schools next school year, and eventually Pinellas County.

Speaking about PREPaRE 2, a trauma response training program, Acierno said, “it depends on what students are affected by whatever kind of trauma happened, and how they go about responding to that.  

”And we didn’t realize how much of a need there was for this and how many school districts want this.”

One in five adults suffer from mental illness, a sobering number, but not one that is insurmountable to treat with the right resources and approach.

You can join us on Bay News 9 Tuesday, May 23 at 9 p.m. for "The State of Mental Health in America.”

Dr. Nicole Cross and the Spectrum News team are examining the nationwide need for greater mental health resources through the eyes of people and experts in the field.

The special will be available on air, online, and on the Spectrum News app.