About The Mental Health Association of East Tennessee
The Mental Health Association of East Tennessee is a 501 (C)3 non profit organization dedicated to educating the community about mental health issues, including the signs and symptoms of mental illness. An ardent advocate on behalf of those who sometimes are not able to advocate for themselves, the MHA works to improve the mental health system in our communities for those who need mental health care today or ten years from now.
Founded locally in 1948, the Association has been a United Way Partner Agency since 1960 and is affiliated with Mental Health America (formerly the National Mental Health Association).
During our early years the agency was focused primarily on the mental health needs of Knoxville and Knox County residents. Recognizing that people in rural areas of East Tennessee were also in need of client services, educational programs and advocacy, the board and staff worked to expand services to other communities by becoming the MHA of Greater Knoxville in 1994 and expanding again in 2003. Now the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee serves sixteen counties. The MHA is concerned with issues affecting people in urban and rural communities and has changed its name to reflect the expanded service territory.
Prevalence of Mental Illness
East Tennessee is home to more than one million residents, of whom 26.2% (294,000) will need mental health treatment in any single year and 51% will need mental health treatment in their lifetime according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Less than four of every ten people in need of mental health treatment access care in any given year. Stigma of mental illness, under-recognition of symptoms, lack of health insurance and financial resources for co-payments are key barriers preventing access to care.
Untreated mental illness will worsen over time leading to impairment and disability. In fact, mental illness is the leading cause of disability in people ages 15 – 44. National Institute of Mental Health reports 50% of all people with mental illness develop symptoms by age 14 while 75% develop symptoms by age 24. National Institute of Mental Health evidence also shows that people average a 10 – 12 year delay between symptom onset and start of treatment. Treatment delay causes unnecessary suffering, impairment and disabling mental illness.
Mission & Services
The Mental Health Association of East Tennessee is dedicated to the promotion of mental health awareness, wellness and recovery in our communities.
The Mental Health Association provides noteworthy services in three function areas: client services, public education and advocacy.
Client Services: Client services are staff efforts to assist individuals through free mental health screenings, individual client assistance accessing mental health care or medications and information and referral telephone requests.
Public Education: Educational programs target specific groups of people. The MHA successfully empowers workshop and conference participants with greater knowledge of the signs and symptoms of mental illness and how these often unrecognized conditions impact coworkers, fellow students and members of their church or synagogue. Target audiences include: youth, seniors, working adults, minorities, health professionals, criminal justice system, first responders and others.
Advocacy: Advocacy efforts of the Association include key community coalition involvement, community building activities, and systems advocacy work to build lasting changes to the mental health system.