The threat of coronavirus in the state may be taking a toll on the mental well-being of Tennesseans, so Gov. Bill Lee’s administration is vowing to focus more resources in underserved areas.
The move comes a week after Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs announced that eight people had died by suicide in his county in a single, 48-hour period.
Gov. Bill Lee says he was stunned to learn about the suicides, which he linked to the coronavirus pandemic, describing them as collateral damage.
“COVID-19 is a viral pandemic, but it is also a pandemic that can produce hopelessness in people when they are facing losing their jobs, or losing their business, or losing their health, or losing their parent,” Lee told reporters via a videoconference Tuesday.
Lee says the state will soon deploy several behavioral health mobile units to rural communities. Marie Williams, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said this is possible thanks to a federal grant, which was already in the works before the pandemic.
The units will be deployed to East and West Tennessee, where she said the need is greater. Lee said they will help expand the services already provided by nonprofits in those areas.
If you are in a crisis or know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.