Since 1949, May has been recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States where organizations like Centerstone and affiliates reach out to millions of people via local events, screenings and the media.

According to Centerstone, the purpose of Mental Health Month is to help eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness by raising awareness of mental health conditions and those who have them.

Director of Suicide Prevention Services at Centerstone Megan Williams said for Mental Health Awareness Month Centerstone is reaching out and talking to people about coping mechanisms and seeing that they have everything they need like medicine.

 “We don’t want you to be embarrassed by this as it is prevalent,” Williams said. “This is something that doesn’t need to be hidden.”

More than 51 million people experienced mental illness in 2019 with one in five adults and one in six youth experience some kind of mental illness each year. It is estimated that only 45% of adults and 51% of children with a mental illness receive treatment. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting more than 19% of the adult population each year.

Centerstone offers various treatments and programs for mental health which include outpatient clinics, residential programs, telehealth and inpatient hospital.

The organization also has a crisis call center and mobile crisis response available in most counties in Middle Tennessee.

Williams said Centerstone utilizes the Zero Suicide model, a gold standard in the mental health industry, which is an implementation strategy and model that states that suicide prevention should be a core responsibility of healthcare, just like cancer research. She described the model as a shift in thinking based on research and built the framework around treatments and implementation strategies that have shown to work.

The creation of the Zero Suicide model was a response by the National Strategy of Suicide Prevention, in conjunction with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, to the increasing rate of suicides from 1999 to today.

“It really is the gold standard because it is a framework for systematic care,” Williams said. “It takes a targeted, focus look at suicide and treats it head on as opposed to indirectly treating it through other treatment ideas.”

Some of the therapy treatments Centerstone provides includes dialectical behavior therapy which tries to identify and change negative thinking patterns and pushes for positive behavioral changes, cognitive behavioral therapy and collaborative assessment and management of suicidality which Williams described as focusing on a safety planning model.

“Those have been in the three standards that are included in Zero Suicide because they have evidence and research to back that they have been able to decrease suicidal ideation in patients and that’s just been great,” Williams said.

For Williams, trying to shine a light on something in order to make it okay for people to talk about it is a big reason why awareness months, like Mental Health Awareness Month, are important.

“Mental health is just as important as physical health,” Williams said. “We want to make sure we are doing okay mentally and, if not, then we’re talking about it with friends, loved ones or professionals, if that’s what you need, but making sure to not keep it hidden and to shine a light on it.”

For more information about Centerstone, go to centerstone.org or call 1-877-HOPE123 (1-877-467-3123).

If you or anyone you know are having thoughts about suicide or are in a crisis, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or TEXT “TN” to 741-741. If anyone needs to contact local resources for help in a crisis or thoughts of suicide, contact Tullahoma Lifeline, call 800-454-8336 or TEXT 931-247-0754 or the Family Counseling Center in Manchester at 931-723-0380.