Three hundred billion dollars.

That’s the annual cost to society for untreated mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

But the consequences are deeper than pocketbooks.

Today, nearly one in seven children suffer from a treatable mental health challenge – yet half don’t receive treatment.

Without treatment, these issues can affect children’s education, future employment and – in extreme cases – can even lead to incarceration down the road.

As the cost to society increases, the robbery of potential skyrockets. How many future teachers, police officers, astronauts or presidents are falling victim to untreated mental health conditions? And how many more can we develop if we can improve access to – and acceptance of – mental health care?

This should hit home to all of us, especially in Bay County.

Since Hurricane Michael destroyed the Panama City area last year, our community has been plagued with trauma triggered by the devastation of the natural disaster. It’s been tough for us as adults – imagine what it’s been like for our children.

And that’s on top of daily battles our kids have long been fighting: bullying, anxiety, depression.

For these children – and their families – Children’s Home Society of Florida is here.

We’ve been serving Bay County for decades. We were among the first on the streets after the storm to care for children and families, and our dedication to this community has only grown.

With the increased need for quality, easily accessible mental health care, we’re focusing our efforts on bringing top-notch counseling to children, teens, adults and families. Wherever you are, we can be. Recovery is a journey, a long-term process we remain committed to in Panama City.

It’s a big step to seek support – and, sometimes, it can be scary, especially if you don’t know what to expect.

So Children’s Home Society of Florida eases the anxiety.

Is it easier for you to meet with a counselor at your home? We can be there.

Do you prefer to bring the family into our office? We’re here.

Is your child more comfortable on his phone? We can serve him through online counseling.

It’s time we remove the barriers to help. Slash the stigmas. Address the fears. And encourage those we love to take the first step toward healing.

Panama City deserves better than the pictures painted by statistics. We are stronger than statistics.

At Children’s Home Society of Florida, we consider it a great privilege to serve this community – to turn statistics into successes as, together, we reshape the future for this incredible community.