TRI CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) Mental health officials say if there is anything good to come out of the pandemic, it is that a newfound focus has been put on mental health nationwide.

They say as we enter 2021 with hope, that is going to be more important now than ever before.

“As we start this new year I think we must focus on mental health and the building of our mental health following the taxing year that we have just had,” said Dr. Tim Perry with Frontier Health.

Whatever your goals and resolutions look like for the new year, health experts are urging you to make being mentally healthy one of them.

“There is still so much unknown and there is still a lot of lack of stability that we still have leftover from last year. We are still in the pandemic so the more we talk about mental health, it continues to be a part of our conversation and continues to be a priority for us,” said Emily Wells with the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee.

With the COVID vaccine now becoming more availble, doctors say it is giving people much needed hope.

“They are looking at a light at the end of the tunnel, but there is no vaccine for mental health. That mental health is still going to have lingering effects well past the beginning of this new year and well past, I think, when the pandemic may be over,” said Dr. Perry.

He reports the impacts of the pandemic on mental health are already obvious in the region.

“We have seen substance abuse increase, we have seen death by overdose increase we have seen the opioid epidemic going up. There are certain kinds of mental health issues that thrive in isolation,” said Dr. Perry.

This is why he and others say no matter if you are struggling with substance abuse or just your mental health in general, starting somewhere is key.

“The first step is recognizing where you are, the second step of course is reaching out for help. A good resolution for mental health this year would be to accept help,” said Dr. Perry.

Other suggestions for a healthy mind include dedicating time to unplug from screens and being intentional about creating a work-home life balance if you are working remotely.

“I think a good starting point for many people is to sit down and say I need to carve out some personal time and make sure that I am taking personal time and not just letting my work absorb my family life my personal life my recreational life,” said Dr. Perry.

With the promise the vaccine brings of an eventual return to normalcy, some people might find they have more resolve.

“I also think there is more hope this year. We have already lived through a pandemic for so many months, there is more hope that we are able to adapt and overcome,” said Wells.

As far as New Year’s resolutions are concerned, one way to be mentally healthy in the new year is by incorporating a focus on mental health into your existing goals. For example, if your goal was to become more fit, this could look like working on mindfulness, unplugging and being present in each moment while you are working out to give yourself a mental break.

The Mental Health Association of East Tennessee says you also should not put an unhealthy amount of pressure on achieving those resolutions.

“A lot of studies have shown it is counterproductive to beat yourself up over not meeting your fitness goal or whatever it may be. I want to encourage people to give themselves grace. Take the time to acknowledge your disappointment and resolve to do better than next day,” said Wells.


If you are in need of mental health help, the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee website is a great place to start. There you can call their peer support line to get directly connected to local resources and providers that can help you, or start by taking their free mental health screening.

Frontier Health also provides a host of valuable mental health services throughout the Tri-Cities region to adults, adolescents and children. You can even start by calling their COVID-19 hotline, which can also direct you immediately to mental health services, just call 1-833-4FH-COVID.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-8255.

The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network can provide resources for you to overcome suicidal thoughts or intervene on behalf of a loved one you are concerned about.