National Ranking Highlights Tennessee’s Advancement in Serving Mental Health Needs of Citizens

Tennessee moves up eleven spots to 28th in ranking of states
Friday, November 13, 2020 | 07:52am

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee moved up eleven spots to a ranking of 28th in responding to the mental health needs of its citizens according to the 2021 State of Mental Health in America report published by Mental Health America.  The annual ranking of all 50 states and the District of Columbia examines data trends in various categories relating to prevalence of mental illness, substance use disorder, thoughts of suicide, and access to care for both adults and youth.

Tennessee’s jump of 11 spots was the 4th largest move among states that improved.  Additionally, Tennessee’s ranking in adult categories improved to 18th this year up from 28th last year.  The data used to compile the report represents the latest publicly available, nationwide behavioral health statistics from 2017 and 2018.

“This report shows great gains for the state of Tennessee, and that’s without including the impact of recent advancements and expansion in state services.  Just in the last two years, with the support of Gov. Bill Lee and the General Assembly, we have expanded our Behavioral Health Safety Net to cover more uninsured adults and to cover uninsured children for the first time,” said Marie Williams, LCSW, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS).  “We know this work and additional investments in substance abuse services and suicide prevention are having a positive impact for Tennesseans.”

In addition to recent state investments in mental health and substance abuse services, TDMHSAS has received more than $10 million in federal grants to respond to behavioral health concerns caused by COVID-19.

2021 State of Mental Health in America report

“While Tennessee has made tremendous strides compared to other states, the report also highlights the need to improve better access to those services, which is why Mental Health America of the MidSouth provides online screenings, advocates for telehealth, and goes into schools and businesses to promote whole health, social-emotional health, suicide prevention, and workplace wellness,” said Tom Starling, Ed.D., CEO of Mental Health America of the MidSouth.

Ben Harrington, CEO of the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee added “I am really proud of the thoughtful and innovative investments in behavioral health services made by the state of Tennessee in the last decade. These investments clearly have made a huge impression as Tennessee continues to rise in national rankings. Tennessee has made great strides in services provided to Tennesseans so that we can intervene in early stages of illness while preventing untold costs and suffering. It is a pleasure to work with our colleagues at the Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services and community agencies as we work to build a behavioral health system which is responsive to the needs of all Tennesseans.”

The report shows additional gains for Tennessee’s in the following areas:

  • Adults with Any Mental Illness – ranked 13th this year up from 30th last year
  • Adults with Serious Thoughts of Suicide – ranked 18th this year up from 28th last year
  • Adults with Any Mental Illness Reporting Unmet Need – ranked 7th this year up from 25th last year
  • Adults with Substance Use Disorder – ranked 9th this year, virtually unchanged from last year
  • Youth with At Least One Major Depressive Episode in the Past Year – ranked 6th this year up from 17th last year
  • Youth with Severe Major Depressive Episode – ranked 19th this year up from 39th last year

Screening tools offered by Mental Health America are available at this link:

Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide can call the Tennessee Statewide Crisis line at 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471).  For more on the crisis line, visit this link: