Posted: Monday, April 8, 2024

Mental Health & Suicide Prevention

Mental health is a critical component of overall well-being, yet, in Tennessee, many individuals struggle to access the support and resources they need. With more than 927,000 adults grappling with mental health conditions in our state alone, the need for accessible and affordable mental health care is essential. However, barriers such as cost and limited availability of mental health professionals often prevent individuals from receiving the required counseling or therapy. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a staggering 43.1 percent of adults in Tennessee experience symptoms of anxiety or depression. Unfortunately, 25.6 percent of these individuals do not receive the necessary counseling or therapy. The shortage of mental health professionals means many Tennesseans are forced to seek out-of-network providers for care, often at greater expense and inconvenience.

Tragically, suicide remains a significant concern in our state, with 1,161 lives lost to suicide in 2021 in Tennessee. Additionally, 230,000 adults reported having suicidal thoughts in the past year. Recognizing the warning signs for suicide is crucial in preventing these tragedies. “Warning signs for suicide can include talking about death or suicide, and drastic changes in behavior such as giving away prized possessions or increases in risk-taking behaviors. It is important to recognize when our loved ones may withdraw socially, lose interest in hobbies and express feelings of extreme hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness,” explained Kristin Hill, a board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with Blount Memorial Physicians Group – Psychiatry.

Children also are deeply affected by mental health challenges. A shocking 59.4 percent of Tennesseans ages 12-17 diagnosed with depression do not receive the mental health care they need. High school students battling depression are twice as likely to drop out of school, emphasizing the necessity to address mental health needs among our youth. “When it comes to children, it's essential to remain vigilant for signs such as talking about suicide or searching for suicide online, isolating from friends, and engaging in risky behaviors such as self-harming, drug experimentation or out-of-character behavior,” Hill said.

If you notice any of the above warning signs, opening the lines of communication may aid the person toward seeking help. “If you are worried someone is thinking of taking his or her life, it is important to be direct about your concerns, provide empathy and be a non-judgmental listening ear. Let them know there is hope and help available to them. It is important to act quickly by removing means for suicide and getting your loved one to emergency medical treatment as soon as possible,” Hill emphasized. If you or someone you know is in crisis, immediate assistance is available. The East Tennessee Mobile Crisis hotline at 865-539-2409 provides support for individuals, including children, who are at risk of harming themselves or others. In emergencies, the emergency room or dialing 911 are vital resources for immediate intervention. To access the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, call 988 or chat at

For more information or to make an appointment with a mental health professional, call Blount Memorial Physicians Group – Psychiatry at 865-980-5377.

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