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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is a time to raise awareness and provide help for those living with mental or behavioral health issues.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — May is Mental Health Awareness Month. 

Since 1949, people have observed May as a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues. More than one in five Americans live with a mental illness and 55% of those people receive no treatment.

Two of the biggest barriers people face: knowing what services are available to them, and how to access those services. In Knox County, there’s one provider for every 590 people, according to a 2023 report from the Knox County Health Department.  

There is help available for people that need it. Click this link to find services that offer mental health help in East Tennessee. People in the U.S. can also dial 988 in times of a mental health crisis to reach a lifeline with free and confidential support. 

Doctors said it’s important for people to receive a diagnosis early, and often times that comes from your primary care doctor.

“If you’re struggling with mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help. You don’t have to suffer alone, you don’t have to struggle alone,” Dr. Alicia Brooks, a family physician with Covenant Health, said. “That’s why we’re here, that’s why we exist, to help just don’t struggle alone. If you know of a loved one that is struggling, encourage them to get help and ask their primary to just take a look.” 

Brooks said it can be difficult to see loved ones struggling with mental health, but it’s an important conversation to start. She said the best way to approach them is to first listen to them.

“Ask them how they’re doing, hear what they have to say, don’t try to fix the problem in that moment… just be there for them. Second, encourage them to seek proper help, whether it’s through a counselor or their primary care provider. Sometimes that small push is what that person needs to get the help that they need,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a list of tools and resources at this link that can help people connect themselves or a loved one with mental health professionals. For families with children, you can find warning signs and resources at youth.gov.