A hurricane devastated their island, now those Maria evacuees are trying to cope with the trauma and start over in a new place.
While counties across Tampa Bay offer many resources to help Puerto Ricans succeed, one organization realized they were missing one thing: mental health.
Empath Health is now helping evacuees cope with the emotional scars by giving them free therapy sessions.
People like Nicole Rodriguez, 25, had a promising life in Puerto Rico.
Studying for her bachelors in business administration but in the blink of an eye, her goals changed after Hurricane Maria.
“When I first got here, my mind was going crazy. I wondered if I made the right decision,” says Rodriguez.
The pressure to learn English is weighing hard on Nicole but she works daily to get better.
Working two jobs at Walgreens and Marshall's, she no longer wants to feel discouraged not being able to understand customers.
Maria Pepe with Empath Health has seen hundreds of families break down after filling out simple paperwork.
The reminders of their old life, Maria says, can be a trigger depression even suicide.
“It is very valid that a lot of these families are feeling the stress. We don't want the stress to become violence or other unhealthy ways of coping,” she says.
Empath health along with the Hispanic Outreach Center and the Inter is hosting an event called "It's time to talk about it."
Hurricane Irma and Maria evacuees will be able to talk with people about those emotional scars and get free help.
It's on February 8th from 4:00 to 5:00 at the Outreach Center on 612 Franklin Street in Clearwater.
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