More Tennesseans died from suicide than the coronavirus last week, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs revealed in a weekly update.
“Thus far, our reaction to COVID-19 has been to sacrifice the global economy,” said Jacobs. “The truth is: a sick economy produces sick people.”
According to Jacobs, the Knox County Regional Forensic Center examined nine suspected suicides in under 48 hours last week. As of Saturday afternoon, Tennessee had six confirmed deaths caused by the coronavirus.
“Last year, our medical examiner performed autopsies for 199 confirmed or suspected suicides from across the region, with 83 of those coming from Knox County. Over the past 48 hours, that office has now examined nine suspected suicides, eight of which are from Knox County alone. For Knox County, that’s almost ten percent of last year’s total number in the past two days alone,” Jacobs added.
He called the numbers “utterly shocking” and said he is questioning if the government is taking the right approach in responding to COVID-19.
“Is what we are doing now really the best approach? How can we respond to COVID-19 in a way that keeps our economy intact, keeps people employed, and empowers our people with a feeling of hope and optimism, not desperation and despair?” he said.
Dr. Martha Buchanan, director of the Knox County Health Department, began a Friday press conference by discussing the suicide rates and was holding back tears while she spoke.
“That’s startling and disturbing and really, really challenging to think about how some of the things we have to do as a community right now could be contributing to these things,” she said. “The more important message today that I want to deliver is that now more than ever we need to be kinder and gentler with ourselves and with each other. If there’s anybody out there who’s struggling, I encourage you to reach out.”
Tennessee now has 1,373 confirmed COVID-19 cases and has hospitalized 118 patients. As of Saturday, 18,338 individuals were tested for the virus.
– – –