From Panic Disorder to Mental Health Advocate with Jarrod Strickland, NAMI Florida

We’re kicking off Mental Health Awareness Month with an important conversation surrounding stigma, mental health challenges, and resources that are saving lives. Joined by Jarrod Strickland, Executive Director of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Florida, this episode of Lift U Up: Inspiring Health Stories discusses Jarrod’s own mental health past that led him into the field of helping others, and the impact of the work he now does with NAMI Florida.

Delayed Diagnosis

Jarrod Strickland finished his freshman year of high school excited for a big summer ahead. His first year of high school was a big transition period for him, like most of his peers. Unfortunately, that feeling of uncertainty grew and on the night before his summer vacation, Jarrod experienced his first panic attack. At the time he did not have the resources or knowledge to understand what was going on, but he faced these panic attacks almost daily for over a year and it started to take a toll on him physically and mentally. Because this was over 20 years ago, neither Jarrod or his family had the awareness about mental health challenges to identify or find solutions for his panic attacks. His high school experience changed dramatically and had to be homeschooled. He graduated and immediately after school joined the military. He was discharged due to traumatic brain injuries sustained in combat, and over the course of treatment received mental health diagnoses for the first time. He admits his life “was sent into a spiral,” but was finally able to start his road to recovery. 

Giving Back

When Jarrod finally started to understand more about himself and his mental health journey, he became passionate about helping others who might be in the same position as him. He found his way into a psychology program and started a career giving back to his peers working for the Wounded Warriors Project. After some transition and a global pandemic, Jarrod found a new position as the Executive Director of NAMI Florida. His role there is to support their vision of being a resource, provide access to care, and advocate for those on their mental health journeys in Florida. 

Awareness and Support

At NAMI Florida, they have three main objectives: 

  • Provide free mental health support
  • Provide thorough education about mental health
  • Advocate for mental health support on a state level 

Within their work, they have two important programs focusing on two groups of people who need increased support today. The first program is for teen mental health support. In the digital age, we’re seeing numbers rise for the number of teens experiencing “persistent sadness or hopelessness.” NAMI Florida is working with community partners to give these teens a safe space and the tools they need to overcome the stress and stigma associated with mental health struggles. The second program at NAMI Florida is in support of workplace mental health. Through peer education they are creating safe spaces for both employees and employers to show up to work knowing they are supported. 

Throughout the episode, Jarrod reminds the audience that there’s nothing wrong with seeking help when you need it. It’s okay to talk to people, there is information out there to guide you, and most importantly you are not alone. 

What else can you expect in this episode?

  • How Jarrod’s life could have been different had he and his family recognized his symptoms early on.
  • How COVID impacted mental health, and why we see more people talking about it. 
  • The impact generational differences are having on teen mental health. 
  • The proactive steps employers can take to create a safe space for their employees. 
  • Why addressing the stigma surrounding mental health is critical for continued progress.
  • Jarrod’s health tip on remembering to breathe. 

Where to find NAMI Florida: