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Call to Action: Raise Awareness and Erase the Stigma Now

Monday, May 15, 2017 | 03:46pm

State Mental Health Authority’s Recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month

NASHVILLE – In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is calling on all Tennesseans to raise awareness about mental health and erase the stigma associated with this disease. 

In Tennessee it is estimated that approximately 20% of adults have dealt with some form of mental illness and nearly 5% have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness within the last year. When it comes to children, an estimated 21% of Tennessee’s youth exhibit some form of mental illness and an additional 9.9% have experienced a major depressive episode.

“Mental Health Awareness Month is a time for all Tennesseans to assess their understanding of how mental illness affects the lives of so many,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams. “I urge everyone to become educated and raise awareness about mental health so that the culture can begin to change on how society views those struggling with these illnesses. Having a mental illness is not a moral failure; it’s a disease.”

Tennessee’s Behavioral Health Facts for FY16:

  • 364,234 people received publicly-funded behavioral health services
  • State Funded Mobile Crisis received 116,044 crisis calls
  • 76,221 of these crisis calls resulted in Face-to-Faces assessments by Mobile Crisis
  • Nearly 170,000 adults suffer with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders
  • 9,281 inpatient admissions to state-owned Regional Mental Health Institutes

“These statistical facts highlight the saddening reality of the prevalence of mental illness in our state,” said TDMHSAS Deputy Commissioner Sejal West. “It is clear, no one is immune from behavioral health issues; it knows no socio-economic bounds. Educating ourselves about the facts related to mental illness is the key ingredient for the eradication of the damaging stigma that prevents so many from seeking the help they need.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Tennessee is currently only able to serve about 4 out of 10 dealing with mental illness and approximately only 1 out of 10 who have a substance use disorder.

“You cannot talk about mental health without acknowledging the prevalence of substance use disorders among this population,” said TDMHSAS Assistant Commissioner of Substance Abuse Services Dr. Stephen Loyd. “Co-occurring disorders are more common than most think and the stigma associated with these diseases is one of the biggest obstacles preventing most people from seeking and receiving services they desperately need. The stigma must be eliminated in order for Tennessee to increase the number of people we are able to treat for their mental health and/or substance use disorder.”

TDMHSAS urges anyone who is struggling with a mental illness or substance use disorder, to seek help immediately! There is no shame or guilt in having a disease; step out from the shadows of your personal struggle and you will find that help is available. If you or a loved one is experiencing a behavioral health crisis, please call the 24/7 Statewide Crisis Line at 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471). 

For more information about mental health and substance abuse, visit our website at:

CLICK HERE to view the complete version of Tennessee’s behavioral health “Fast Facts”

Our Mission: Provide, plan for, and promote a comprehensive array of quality prevention, early intervention, treatment, habilitation, rehabilitation and recovery support services for Tennesseans with mental illness and substance abuse issues.  Our Vision: To be one of the nation's most innovative and proactive state behavioral health authorities for Tennesseans dealing with mental health and substance abuse problems. For more information, visit: