Op-Ed: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Holiday Message from Commissioner Williams
Thursday, December 17, 2020 | 09:09am

For your consideration, please see the following op-ed from Marie Williams, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Surely, you’ve heard it by now, the Andy Williams classic from 1963, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Every other Christmas and holiday season, I have loved that song. It is so happy, uplifting, and hopeful, but the song that seems to resonate as well this year is the more somber classic “In the Bleak Midwinter,” especially the James Taylor rendition. In talking with family, friends, colleagues, and clients across the state, as well as receiving countless emails from Tennesseans seeking help at all times of the day and night, I have been struck by some of the stories of bleakness and lack of hope. Messages like:

“I feel so isolated and alone.”
“I don’t have the same community that I use to have.”
“My addiction has returned, and I feel hopeless.”
“Will I ever feel at home again?”
“I cannot wait until COVID is conquered.”
“Where can I get help? Where can my child, friend, mother, father, sister, brother get help for substance abuse and mental illness?”
“I did not know there were people who cared about me and could offer hope…”

I have been struck, for we know that at this time of year, so many of our hopes, dreams, and wishes are beckoned to be brought in the light as we focus on the God-given gifts we have, the gifts we give, and the gifts we receive. As the song ends, we are asked:

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

In Tennessee, we are very fortunate, for in this season of hope and wonder for some and fear and despair for others, that there truly is hope for tomorrow, and help is available especially for Tennesseans in need of mental health and substance abuse treatment.  Recovery is possible and it’s a real gift that you can open today. It is our genuine wish that you will reach out if you are needing to talk to someone about any mental health or substance abuse concerns. No matter your ability to pay, there are significant new resources available that were in Governor Lee’s budget over the last two years and approved by our General Assembly and are being delivered by community behavioral health providers across the state and dedicated state employees.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or a mental health crisis, please call our Statewide Crisis Line which is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.  You can call 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471) or text “TN” to 741-741.

If you need help with substance use or addiction, please call or text the Tennessee REDLINE at 800-889-9789, which is also available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

If you just want to learn more about the different recovery and treatment programs available for uninsured Tennesseans, please connect with our department online at TN.gov/behavioral-health.

May we each find and know those gifts of heart that we can give anytime of the year, and may your days be merry and bright as we move forward to a new year.