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“How are you doing today?” It’s a question we asked each other multiple times a day that’s taken on new meaning in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. You might have brushed it off with the customary, “Great! How are you?” when really you were nowhere near great. One thing the collective experience of the pandemic has shown us is that it’s OK to take an honest look at how you’re currently feeling and share that with those around you.

Throughout the pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau has been conducting a survey to monitor many aspects of the crisis including self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. Throughout 2020, 30 and 40 percent of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, and in Tennessee the numbers were similar. Looking at the breakdown for different age groups, younger people are reporting anxiety and depression at much higher rates than their parents or grandparents. Compare that to a normal year when the prevalence is about 20 percent, and you’ll quickly see the emotional impact of the last year. The biggest barrier to better mental health is often the stigma of taking that first step. If anything, COVID-19 has shown us that stigma is something we need to leave behind.

So, what can you do to get help for yourself or a loved one?

First off, if you’re experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, please call our Statewide Crisis Line at 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471). The trained counselors who answer this line can talk through what you’re feeling and refer you to the right level of care.

If you need to talk to someone about feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms related to COVID mental health concerns, there’s a network of agencies across the state that have set up COVID-19 Crisis Counseling hotlines. Just navigate to this web link, and find the contact information for the agency that serves your county.

If you’re a healthcare worker, first responder, or work in education and you need to talk to someone, you can make a free and confidential call to the Emotional Support Line for Pandemic Stress at 888-642-7886.

If you have insurance, whether it’s through your work or through TennCare, the first step is to talk to your doctor. Let the doctor know how you’re feeling, how long it’s been going on, and you can discuss next steps. If you don’t have insurance, Tennessee has a wealth of resources to provide mental health supports. The Behavioral Health Safety Net provides essential mental health services to uninsured adults who have no other way to pay and to all uninsured children.

So, the next time someone asks, “How are you doing?” be prepared to give an honest answer, and don’t be afraid of the conversation that ensues when you ask how they’re feeling. You might be surprised at what you learn.