Nov 17, 2021 - COVID

When COVID surged, so did anxiety in Tennessee

Illustration of a person sitting under a cloud shaped like a virus

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Symptoms of depression and anxiety in Tennessee spiked following surges in COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to a new report from The Sycamore Institute.

Why it matters: The report, released this week, highlights the pandemic's widespread impact on mental health in Tennessee.

  • The fallout sometimes had deadly implications, the report notes. Tennessee saw overdose deaths increase by 44% in 2020.

Between the lines: The report comes as Tennessee policymakers continue to decide how to dole out COVID-19 stimulus funding.

  • Tennessee has access to $52 million in federal funding specifically earmarked for pandemic-related mental health needs, The Sycamore Institute notes.
  • The report points to billions in federal aid and state reserve funds that could also go toward services.

Go deeper: The report also analyzed data from before the pandemic that showed adults in Tennessee fared better than the national average on many mental health factors.

  • But the state was higher than average when it came to deaths tied to mental health problems.

What they’re saying: The Sycamore Institute's policy director Mandy Pellegrin tells Axios those contradictory findings might suggest a need to identify mental health issues before they become deadly.

"The first thing that makes me think of is do we have a lot of unidentified need?" Pellegrin said.


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