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As the world deals with the psychological stress of the Covid-19 pandemic, Key Biscayne’s Fire Rescue department is using their “TeenTalk” program to offer much needed assistance to help teens and their families cope.

“This is an issue that can affect anyone, from all cultural and economic backgrounds,” said Chief Eric Lang, Key Biscayne Fire Rescue. “We are working to encourage members of our community to speak up and seek help – we are a community and you never need to feel alone.”

The next “Teen Talks” session will take place at noon Oct. 14 vitually on Zoom (ID: 927 0568 4991)

The impact of the pandemic has been seen everywhere, from delayed school openings, to quieter roadways, to social distancing and masks. But not all the impacts are as readily apparent.

In June, 40% of US adults reported struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues -- about three times higher than reports from the same time in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The same report indicated that an estimated 11 percent of adults have “seriously considered” suicide in the previous month, while 25 percent of young adults had suicidal thoughts.

“Unfortunately, we are all facing new levels of uncertainty as we adjust to the conditions that have resulted from the pandemic,” said Lang. “We want everyone on Key Biscayne to know that the fire department is here to help.”

In 2019, the fire department launched the “Teen Talk” series to keep the community connected and offer a safe space to discuss sensitive topics. Now, it is an essential, virtual meeting place for teens and their families. The series offers coping strategies, advice on mental health strategies, and ways to bring families together.

To offer more clinical support, Lang brought in Ana Moreno, a psychotherapist who specializes in addiction, therapeutic consultations, and interventions. They lead the series together, offering their various perspectives and reaching individuals and families who may otherwise be unsure of how to get help.

“You are not powerless, knowledge is power,” Moreno said.

South Florida has long struggled with mental health issues, which often manifest as substance abuse or suicidal thoughts.

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“Unfortunately, more affluent communities tend to have disproportionate levels of substance abuse and suicide,” Lang said. “Those are facts, but we also know that reaching out, offering support and solutions can go a long way to turn this around.”.