Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs: 12 dead by suicide during coronavirus pandemic

Published: Apr. 1, 2020 at 12:33 PM EDT
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More people have died by suicide in East Tennessee than from the coronavirus.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said 12 have died by suicide in the region in the past two weeks, eight of them in Knox County.

"That's startling and disturbing and really really challenging to think about how some of the things that we have to do as a community right now could be contributing to those things," said Knox County Health Department director Dr. Martha Buchanan.

As more people are faced with job layoffs, sickness, isolation and other challenges that surround the coronavirus, Meghan Donovan started the Facebook group 'You Are Not Alone' to help connect people who are struggling. A suicide survivor herself, she has known the importance of a support group.

"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," she said.

Donovan said the page is designed as a safe way for people to connect but suicidal posts are sent to the appropriate authorities to try to help.

Wraquel Spencer is the founder of Forget You Not. It is designed to help people dealing with grief and trauma. She said people are grieving the loss of their lifestyles.

"Everything that was normal to us has now changed so we have to find a way to adapt, survive and I stress right now especially that self care is so important, it is not selfish. If you can't take care of yourself you can not take care of someone else," she said.

Knox County mayor Glenn Jacobs said those twelve suicides do not include overdose cases. Dr. Buchanan said it is difficult to determine if the recent rise in suicides is directly related to the coronavirus, but mayor Jacobs has said that number is higher than usual.

"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 Jacobs.

He has suggested thinking about social distancing only as physical distance.

"It doesn't mean that we withdraw and certainly doesn't mean that we isolate ourselves. We need to be more socially connected than ever and we can do that through technology," said Jacobs.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255.

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