2 in 5 Knox County residents need mental health care per state report

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Working from home, events canceled, mask mandates, and a potentially life-threatening virus that was going around – we’ve heard the grim predictions for two years now about what all that could do to our mental health.

Now, we’re getting to see how those notions bear out in Knox County.

A new State of Mental Health report was shared with the Knox County Commission at its March 28 meeting. The Mental Health Association of East Tennessee put it together to look at where mental health stand, what is going well, and what needs work.

“We’re actually doing pretty well in some areas, but there are other areas that we have challenges in. For example, we’re kind of experiencing what I call the perfect storm. We’ve got a huge increase of people who have figured out they need mental health care and they become help seekers and are looking for help. That creates a demand for care, but on the other side of that storm you’ve got fewer mental health professionals available,” said Mental Health Association of East Tennessee CEO Ben Harrington.

The data in the report shows how COVID made a mark on the community’s mental health.

“Prepandemic, we would always talk about one person in five in Knox County needs mental health care. That’s changed. It changed parallel track along with the surge of COVID. As COVID went up, the number of people with anxiety and depressive symptoms went up too,” he said.

Harrington said now it’s 2 in 5 Knox County residents.

“The biggest surge has been in persons with anxiety issues and depressive issues,” he said.

Still, Harrington is hopeful and looking toward the potential of more help and resources on the way.

“We now have two new hospitals about to open this spring, which are private hospitals. We’ll have psych beds for adults and children, and so we’re going to gain about 175 -190 beds within the county, which will be wonderful,” said Harrington.

Mayor Glenn Jacobs sent the following statement in response to the report to WATE:

“The stigma around mental health is a dangerous one. The pandemic has had a detrimental effect on mental health across the board and it’s something we can’t ignore. I’m hopeful the trajectory of the conversation continues to progress openly. I appreciate Commissioner Jay spearheading the report; its findings will be incorporated into some of the other surveys the health department undertakes—all of which will certainly be valuable tools moving forward.”

Mayor Glenn Jacobs

You can view the State of Mental Health report, here.