Advocacy is the act of speaking, writing, or acting in support or something or someone. Advocacy has been important to individuals experiencing many of the issues described in this website and we have seen the power of advocacy in changing people’s minds, changing policies, and changing practices. As long as we continue to see and experience stigma, our advocacy will continue to be needed. How do you want to get involved?
Planning and Policy Councils
Tennessee has a whole system of planning and policy councils set up throughout the state so that advocates can join together, discuss the behavioral health needs in their communities, and advise the state on policy, budget requests, system evaluations, and more. There are seven regional councils and one statewide council. The majority of members on each council is made up of people who have lived experience with behavioral health issues. This means that your voice is valued and needed.
The Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) is a group of people throughout the state who have lived experience of mental illness or substance use disorder who gather once a month via conference call to share recovery journeys, learn about resources, and plan special events, such as the annual Certified Peer Recovery Specialist Conference. The CAB also participates in the annual needs assessment process and shares its opinions on the most important behavioral health needs in our state today with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Young Adult Leadership Council
Are you looking for a way for your voice to be heard? To become a leader in your community?
The Statewide Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) is for youth and young adults ages 15-30 who have lived experience with mental illness, substance abuse, co-occurring disorder, and/or involvement with systems such as foster care, juvenile justice, homeless services, etc. We meet monthly in Nashville to connect with peers, gain personal and professional development skills, and become empowered to speak out for ourselves and others about behavioral health issues. The YALC has created and starred in a national PSA, met former second lady Tipper Gore, hosted annual Children’s Mental Health Awareness events, and facilitated statewide Peer Leadership Academies. Mileage reimbursement/transportation assistance is provided for the monthly meetings and other community events.
Youth Transitions Advisory Council
The Youth Transitions Advisory Council was created in 2009 to assist the Department of Children’s Services in providing services and supports to youth aging out of state custody. Since that time we have discovered that there are transitional age services available from many state child-serving departments. The Youth Transitions Advisory Council provides an opportunity for all of those services to come together to share information about what works for transition age youth and their families. Young adults come to share their experiences and to learn about services and supports available to young people transitioning to adulthood in the areas of housing, employment, health care and other assistance that can make their transition to adulthood a little less stressful.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a national grassroots mental health organization that started in 1979 with a group of families literally gathered around a kitchen table. Today, NAMI is dedicated to building better lives for the millions of American affected by mental Illness. NAMI Tennessee is a state affiliate of NAMI National and is made up of people with lived experience of mental illness, their families, and community members who are dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with mental illness and their families through support, education and advocacy. They offer Family to Family classes and support groups through local affiliates throughout the state. There are plenty of opportunities to become a volunteer—and one day, maybe even an employee—for NAMI and give back to a community that gave you so much.
Tennessee Mental Health Consumers’ Association (TMHCA)
The Tennessee Mental Health Consumers’ Association (TMHCA) is the statewide association of people with lived experience of mental illness or co-occurring disorder. TMHCA is 100% peer-run and provides many different kinds of programs in many locations, including psychiatric rehabilitation services and supported employment programs. TMHCA provides peer support services in Tennessee Crisis Stabilization Units and Regional Mental Health Institutes.