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Mental health and suicide concerns mount
Bryan Herriman.jpg

Amid this COVID-19 pandemic, our world is changing. We are having to find new ways to cope with the multitude of struggles brought on by social distancing requirements, all while still dealing with whatever life gave us before this historic health emergency.

“While these changes in our social activity, daily structure and for some, employment and financial situations, can affect our mental health and bring about increased depression, anxiety, and sometimes suicidal thoughts, our main goal should be to care for ourselves and remember there is help available for these issues,” said Bryan Herriman, director at CHEER Mental Health, a division of Volunteer Behavioral Health. For some, stay-at-home orders have brought a welcomed break from the rush of today’s society, while others are slowly adjusting to new ways of coping with social restrictions. Many have found healthy ways to reduce their anxiety and prevent toxic stress from overwhelming them. Activities that may help during this pandemic are:  

• Exercise, even if it is just a short walk

• Deep breathing, meditation, or prayer

• Sleep

• Following as normal a schedule as possible

• Starting a new hobby

• Using social media and video or phone calls to stay connected with family/ friends 

• Exploring areas for self-improvement

• Focusing on how you can help others during this time

• Reaching out to a virtual peer support group

Herriman says, “We can’t emphasize connection enough.” 

Mental health centers like CHEER are one of the many services provided by Volunteer. Peer Support Centers and virtual support groups found on, provide individuals with behavioral health conditions or co-occurring mental illness and addiction with a supportive recovery network.

Even while finding positive ways to cope, our anxiety may increase as the number of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to rise. Fear over our health and those we love, as well as loss of employment and dwindling financial resources, can send us into panic mode. Uncertainty, loss of normal freedoms of movement, and altered ways of coping or finding support among friends can produce feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. 

For those who were dealing with behavioral health issues, addiction, chronic pain or illness, loss of a loved one, or isolation before this pandemic, the impact of this virus can become devastating.

Signs of stress can include:

• Poor sleep or eating patterns

• Problems concentrating or remembering things

• Obsessive worry of financial problems

• Worsening chronic physical health problems

• Exacerbated mental health problems

• Feeling helpless

• Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or are worried about a family member or friend, please call 800-704-2651 to reach the crisis team at Volunteer Behavioral Health.

Other statewide and national suicide resources include:

Tennessee Statewide Crisis Hotline 1-855-CRISIS-1 or 1-855 (274-7471)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800 (273-8255).