Blount Memorial Hospital – Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention Alliance

The Mental Health Action Team was formed in 1998 after a community health assessment. The Suicide Prevention Task Force was formed in 2002 when the Blount Memorial Hospital medical examiner noticed a significant increase in suicide as a cause of death in Blount County. The teams merged in 2006 to form the Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention Alliance (MHASPA).

Overview

The Mental Health Action Team was formed in 1998 after a community health assessment. The Suicide Prevention Task Force was formed in 2002 when the Blount Memorial Hospital medical examiner noticed a significant increase in suicide as a cause of death in Blount County. The teams merged in 2006 to form the Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention Alliance (MHASPA).

MHASPA’s organizational focus is:

  • Awareness – To build and sustain a high level of public awareness of mental health concerns.
  • Direct Action – To partner with community organizations to promote life-long mental wellness and to deliver suicide prevention training.
  • Advocacy – To speak out on mental health issues using current knowledge of local, state and national policy development.

Community partners include Blount Memorial Hospital, mental health treatment providers, the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, Blount County Health Department, school systems, law enforcement, concerned citizens, media, faith communities, holistic health care practitioners and local government.

In 2006, this group created a Mental Health Resource Directory that provides a comprehensive list of local mental health services and resources as well as provider payment options. Further information includes crisis hotlines, support groups, advocacy helplines and caregiver support. Information is updated and re-distributed every six months. The team also provides law enforcement chaplains with training and created a resource packet to assist with families that experience a suicide or suicide attempt. Other clergy have also been provided with training on recognizing mental health issues and providing resources for parishioners.

MHASPA works in collaboration with local colleges to provide incoming freshmen with information on dealing with stress associated with college life. Team members certified in QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), a suicide prevention training for the general public, provide yearly training for Maryville College’s Resident Assistants. Each spring for the last five years, the team has provided support for Maryville College administration to use social media, classroom programs and special activities to facilitate the “MC Uplift” initiative that helps students, faculty and staff understand mental illness and suicide, as well as to increase knowledge of resources available on campus and in the community. The Uplift initiative has now been expanded to the high schools in the three local school systems.

Impact

MHASPA’s QPR trainers set a goal of training 3,000 people in Blount County in QPR in three years. This goal was met in December 2016. This training continues and is offered free of charge to any group in the community. Due to collaboration with local school systems, in-school mental health services are now available to students in all three school systems. This service continues to grow every year. The work of the team has resulted in one of the few real-time suicide statistics collection systems in the state of Tennessee.

Lessons Learned

Unfortunately, the team has seen an increase in gun use in attempted and completed suicides. This trend has given the team the opportunity to distribute gun locks and educate the public and local gun stores on gun safety. Through regular media coverage and community education efforts, the team has also worked to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and encourage the community to seek medical attention for mental health issues as they would physical issues.

Future Goals

The goals of the team are to continue to positively impact the community through education, awareness and advocacy efforts. The team is particularly interested at this time in designing efforts to reach youth and teen populations with mental wellness education and suicide prevention.

Contact: Connie Huffman
Executive Director, Blount Memorial Foundation
Telephone: 865-977-5749
Email: chuffman@bmnet.com

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