Strongsville family inspires bill in honor of their son on COVID-19 mental health impact – News 5 Cleveland

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — Tara Gray of Strongsville said she and her family will never be the same after losing their son, 17-year-old Brycen Gray, during his battle with COVID-19 in April.

Gray and her family are now calling for more federal research dollars into the connection between COVID-19 and mental health and neurological disorders after her son took his life at the family home just five days into his fight with the virus.

She believes her son, who was a student at St. Edward High School, was the victim of a mental health impact caused by COVID-19 effects on his brain which caused psychiatric illness, and not the much more common isolation depression caused during quarantine.

“I absolutely believe COVID does impact the brain,” Gray said. “Absolutely believe we should be doing for research on the virus and its effects on the brain.”

“We need to do better, this is something I firmly believe we can watch for and hopefully get treatments before it’s too late for another family. COVID affects the brain and crosses the brain barrier and causes psychiatric issues. There is no way that he was depressed or was having those effects from isolation.”

Tara Gray

Strongsville family inspires bill in honor of their son on COVID-19 mental health impact

Rocky River U.S. Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R) quickly responded to the Gray family, drafting legislation that would authorize the National Science Foundation to award grants in support of research on neurological and psychiatric illnesses that are connected with the COVID-19 infection.

The bill is called the “Brycen Gray and Ben Price COVID-19 Neurological Impact Act,” introduced last week, it was named in honor of Brycen and Ben Price of Illinois, both took their own lives while fighting COVID-19.

Rep. Gonzalez issued the following statement in response to our story:

Brycen Gray was a gifted young man with a bright future ahead of him. While he was taken from his family, friends, and community too soon, his story offers an insight into the indelible mark COVID-19 leaves on the human body and brain. Despite having no history of mental illness, Brycen suffered severe neurological effects following his COVID-19 infection that dramatically altered his behavior. I introduced the Brycen Gray and Ben Price COVID-19 Neurological Impact Act so we can accelerate research into COVID-19’s effect on the brain and start uncovering treatments that will protect others at risk. I will do everything in my power to move this bill forward and build further bipartisan support.

Beth Zietlow-DeJesus, Director of External Affairs with the Alcohol Drug Addition and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County, told News 5 the ADAMHS board applauds the effort to find federal funding to pay for crucial research into the COVID-19, neurological impact connection.

“That is definitely information we would love to see through research,” Zietlow-DeJesus said. “It’s an excellent opportunity to use funding for that purpose.”

“That virus effecting somebodies brain make-up to the point that it would have neurological effects. We already know there’s some, loss of taste and smell, that’s neurological. Having that knowledge would help gear our practices.”

“If somebody is feeling those side effects while they’re having COVID-19, they shouldn’t feel like they can only stay at home, they should still reach out for mental healthcare no matter what.”

Zietlow-DeJesus pointed to resources on the ADAMHS Board website for those dealing with COVID-19 related mental health impact.

Meanwhile, Tara Gray urged families to keep a close watch on loved ones who are in quarantine and are trying to recover from COVID-19.

“Our goal is to bring awareness and try to save someone else,” Gray said. “If we save at least one person, this is not anything I would wish on anyone.”

“You want to make sure somebody is checking in on them, somebody is with them, I would not leave them alone. Our lives will never be the same. I will be the voice for Brycen until the day I die.”

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