Public Mental Health

individuals holding handsPublic Mental Health

The Southeast Mental Health Technology Transfer Center, based in Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, focuses on using a public health framework to develop leadership capacity and train providers with the goal of improving care for individuals with mental health conditions throughout the 8 states of HHS Region IV. 



What is Public Mental Health?

There are two key dimensions to public mental health.  First, it means ensuring a central role for mental health in all public health initiatives. This means assisting public health professionals in gaining an understanding of the foundations of public mental health and identifying mental health challenges from multiple public health perspectives. Similarly, this includes supporting the response efforts during public health emergencies.  

Training Resources: 


Second, it means taking a systems perspective when working to improve population outcomes. Adults and children treated in the public mental health sector face a number of challenges including poverty and social isolation, stigma, obstacles in accessing general health and mental health services, and adverse health behaviors. These difficulties lead to adverse public health outcomes including reduced quality of life and shortened lifespans. Improving these outcomes requires understanding potential facilitators and barriers to the uptake of best practices including state and federal policies, the structure and functioning of public sector delivery systems (including its workforce), and financing.  Implementation strategies that account for systems-level challenges are needed to ensure the uptake of evidence-based practices in public mental health settings. 

Print Media Resources:
  • Interested in what the public mental health system looks like in your Region IV state? See our state resources by visiting our Products & Resources Catalog or clicking on your state below.  

                                               Alabama                              Kentucky                               South Carolina

                                               Florida                                 Mississippi                            Tennessee

                                               Georgia                               North Carolina


  • As a part of a Regional Needs Assessment, the Southeast MHTTC is mapping the public sector mental health infrastructure of the Region IV states and developing provider trainings based on states’ preferences to build mental health leadership capacity across the region.



Why is a Public Health Approach Needed in the Southeast United States?Region 4 map

With eight states and 20% of the U.S. population, Region IV is the largest HHS region.  These states have high rates of poverty, adverse health behaviors, and racial and ethnic health disparities.  Relative to this need, the Southeast has relatively few resources available.  A public health strategy is needed to optimize the impact of training and support activities in the region.


Data Visualization Resources:
  • Mental Health Data Visualization Project: Compiles data from available sources to provide information on Region IV priorities in an easy to understand graphical format. Our interactive data maps allow stakeholders to visualize  mental health priorities at a county and/or state level. Recent interactive data map topics include: Evidence-Based Practices in Rural Areas, Suicide and Crisis Services Access, Diverse Communities, and Workforce Shortages.  To access our data visualizations, please click here.  
What sorts of Public Health experience and expertise can the Southeast MHTTC Provide?

The Southeast MHTTC project team, expert consultants, and community partners have extensive experience in developing, testing, and disseminating evidence-based practices for adults and children treated in public sector settings as well as expertise in understanding quality, financing, and health policies in the public mental health sector.


Relevant Readings

Wahlbeck, K. (2015). Public mental health: the time is ripe for translation of evidence into practice. World Psychiatry, 14(1), 36-42.

Purtle, J., Klassen, A. C., Kolker, J., & Buehler, J. W. (2016). Prevalence and correlates of local health department activities to address mental health in the United States. Preventive medicine, 82, 20-27.