UF Health first in Florida to be named a center of excellence by the National Network of Depression Centers

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB)- Depression and suicide rates are rising not only across the nation but here in North Central Florida, according to doctors at UF Health.

To fight back, they are joining a national effort to help residents struggling with mental health problems.

UF Health is the first center in Florida to be named a center of Excellence by the National Network of Depression Centers.

"I made the right decision coming here,” Valerie Lassman, who is a UF Health patient, said.

Lassman has been coming to UF Health's department of Psychiatry for treatment for more than 10 years.

"I was scared when I was experiencing the symptoms cause I knew something wasn't right,” she said.

Her unexplained crying and fatigue was later diagnosed as depression.

'It affects everyone, our friends, your family. because It's noticeable and it's something after a while you can't hide,” she said.

According to Dr. Regina Bussing, of UF Health, only 1 in 3 people with depression are actually seeking care.

Dr. Bussing says UF Health's national distinction will help them reach out to more people.

"It's really timely that we are joining this national effort. it will really helps us to expand our efforts at prevention, at clinical care and also at recovery for persons affected by depression and mood disorders,” Dr. Bussing said.

In the 10 years Lassman has been going to UF Health, she says she sees more and more doctors and patients every year.

She hopes her story will encourage anyone battling their own mental health to reach out for treatment.

"There is treatment, there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Lassman said.

Next month, a new building will be unveiled that will serve as an addition to UF Health's Springhill facility.

More than 70,000 visits per year are expected at this new facility.