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South Florida family works to remove stigma surrounding mental health

Posted at 8:33 PM, Jun 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-11 07:50:43-04

If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, you can find help here in Palm Beach County, Okeechobee or the Treasure Coast

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The Merrell Family Foundation works to remove the stigma surrounding mental health, while also helping people recognize the warning signs of suicide.

"If you are feeling bad it’s okay to feel that feeling, your feeling is valid you should feel your feelings, but for me, I make sure I don't let that sit too long,” said Jessica Merrell.

Merrell's dad, John, took his own life 6 years ago. It wasn't until Jessica and her mother, Jill began healing that she realized she needed to spend just as much time, if not more time, focusing on her brain strength like she did her physical health.

“There’s certain things that are unavoidable, but if you can get ahead of it just like if you can get ahead of working out before you gain all the weight, it’s a lot easier to keep it under control compared to when you gain the weight and try to lose it, I think it’s the same approach with mental health,” said Merrell.

Merrell is starting a meditation practice but said she currently focuses on her mental strength through self-awareness and daily reflection.

"For me, I have this set of actions that I know I can take so when it feels like my mental health is being compromised, which it does circumstantially, for whatever reasons, whether it's the weather or recent events, I can go back to my toolkit," said Merrell. 

The American Association of Suicidology said warning signs to look out for include dramatic mood changes, anxiety, increased use of alcohol or drugs and acting recklessly.


Merrell and her family are now working to remove the stigma surrounding mental health and hope people dealing with long-term stress or sad thoughts will feel comfortable speaking up.

“We were talking about it and trying to get him help and we had a conversation months before he passed that he said, "I wish I had cancer because if I had cancer I could walk around and when people notice something is wrong with me they would ask and we could talk about it,'” said Merrell.

CLICK HERE to visit the Merrell Family Foundation website.