COVID-19 crisis impacting Tennesseans' mental health; Number of texts to crisis line increases

Posted at 9:59 PM, Apr 14, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Health experts confirm the COVID-19 crisis is impacting the mental health of Tennesseans, and people need to take steps to take care of themselves.

“It’s important to do something for yourself at least once a day, if not multiple times a day,” said Misty Leitsch, the Interim Executive Director for the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. “It is easier to take care of others. Don’t forget about yourself.”

Former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy joined Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s morning briefing on the Metro’s response to COVID-19. The mental health advocate said “calls to suicide hotlines are up more than 800%.”

Kennedy was referring to an increase in calls to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline.

“The tragedy of COVID is it exacerbates this already prevalent mental health and addiction crisis. No one doubts that mental health and addiction is real,” said Kennedy. “Every single American has been faced with a mental health issue in this COVID crisis, themselves, not just a family member, but themselves.”

Leitsch said Tennessee doesn’t have data yet for the number of calls made to the statewide crisis line in March. However, the number of texts sent to the text line was up 60 percent month to month.

She added that the number of calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline were up slightly in March, but she anticipated the greater increase would come in May, June and July when the economic impact of the crisis settles in.

“We’re hearing that most people had enough finances set aside to pay for rent and utilities for April, but because of isolation, and economy the way it is, we anticipate seeing more struggles as the year goes by,” said Letisch.

She said Tennesseans should not be afraid to ask for help.

Anyone experiencing Mental Health issues can call the Tennessee Statewide Crisis Line at 1-855-274-7471 or text “TN” to 741741. The hotline will connect a person with a trained crisis counselor, and the service is free.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.