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Help for East Tennesseans struggling with mental health during coronavirus

(WVLT)
Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 11:10 AM EDT
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More than a dozen East Tennesseans have committed suicide during the coronavirus pandemic.

"My message to folks is that this isn't going to be easy, but we're going to get through it and there is a tomorrow but please don't lose hope," said Knox County mayor Glenn Jacobs.

From lost jobs, social distancing, and stress from protecting physical health, the symptoms stemming from the coronavirus pandemic are taking a toll on East Tennesseans.

"Without connection with other people we get isolated. It's very easy to get into our own thinking and then you've got depression and anxiety waiting right there to flourish," said Jeff Fladen, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Tennessee.

NAMI's mission is to provide resources for people living with serious mental illness and their families.

"Now we have a lot to worry about from the economy to getting food and toilet paper to what will happen tomorrow and what the world will look like for our children and our grandchildren," said Fladen.

reports a nearly 900% increase in calls to its disaster distress helpline in March compared to the same time last year.

East Tennessee regional director, Sarah Walsh said this year anxiety, stress and suicide, as well as loneliness and isolation calls to its crisis line are up 63 percent compared to this time last year.

"Experts say the more connected people are the less likely they are to die by suicide so yes this isolation is quite difficult for a lot of people but extremely difficult for people who may have suicidal thoughts," said Walsh. "A lot of people think the coronavirus is the one factor affecting these suicides but that's not necessarily the case, we have joblessness, financial issues are huge risk factors, we have more time being spent at home, domestic violence could be something, so there are a lot of things playing into this and we don't necessarily know but that's something I'm looking into so we can prevent this moving forward."

Suicide survivor Megan Donovan started the Facebook group,

to help connect people who are struggling during the pandemic.

"I know what it's like to feel like no one is there, I know what it's like to feel completely alone. So I created this site as a way for people just to come together and no matter what they need to talk about we can just talk and I think it's vital to come together. Unity is the most important thing right now," said Donovan.

Fladen warns people who have been feeling depressed, anxious or stressed pay attention to the long-term warning signs that could lead to clinical depression. He suggested people paying attention to lack of sleep and lack of interest in activities that usually bring joy.

"It's only a diagnosis if it goes on for a while and interferes with our lives," he said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text TIME TN to 741-741 to be connected with someone who can help. You can also call the Tennessee Crisis Line at 855-CRISIS-1.

The

is 1-800-273-8255.

Copyright 2019 WVLT. All rights reserved.

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