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Black History Month: Dr. Bestman dedicated over 50 years of her life raising awareness on mental health

Posted at 3:35 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 14:26:20-05

WSFL-TV is celebrating Black History Month by highlighting the contributions blacks are making in South Florida. Today we’re featuring Dr. Evalina Bestman, a psychologist, who’s made it her priority to end the stigma of mental illness.

“If you’re able to change one persons life, then you’ve done well,” said Dr. Evalina Bestman.

A pioneer in mental health services, Dr. Bestman changed many lives across South Florida. For the last 50 years, Dr. Bestman has made it a priority to help people understand mental illness.

“It’s been growing each year. It’s full blast now because of the pandemic. The general population is feeling it. I think it’s made people feel more comfortable that they’re not not normal, per se. That really being in a state of anxiety, stress seems to be the normal state of being even though it should not be, but that’s the reality,” said Dr. Bestman.

The death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests across the country has taken a toll on the black community, affecting individuals psychologically.

“I was very active in the civil rights movement. It took me back to that whole series, Martin Luther King era, where the youth were very actively participating and expressing the injustice and racism that was so prevalent within our society. We just didn’t want to ignore it anymore,” said Dr. Bestman.

The pandemic has also caused a lot of stress. Data from the CDC shows African Americans and Hispanics have suffered 2.6 times more cases of COVID-19 than white non-Hispanics.

New Horizons Mental Health Center, along with other organizations, are helping residents that have been negatively affected by the pandemic. The center offers a wide range of preventative, substance abuse, and psychosocial rehabilitation.

“It can range from diagnosing, just making assessments for individuals so they know where they are on the spectrum and designing treatment plans with them. We work with those youth who have gone in the wrong path in terms with getting involved in the juvenile justice system and help them find a way to really achieve the goals that they want to in life,” said Dr. Bestman.

Even though Dr. Bestman has retired, she hopes her legacy of giving back and encouraging others to do the same, lives on.

“Do not let anyone tell them that they cannot do it,” said Dr. Bestman.

The New Horizons center which is located at 1469 NW 36th Street in Miami, was renamed after Dr. Bestman to honor the dedication she has put into mental health services. If you or someone you know is in need, you can find more information here.