Public 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.

Region IV is the largest HHS region - eight states and 20% of the U.S. population. These states have high rates of poverty, adverse health behaviors, and racial and ethnic health disparities but tend to be under-resourced. A public health strategy is needed to optimize the impact of training and support activities in the region.

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.

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.

What 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.

  • Training Resources:
    • Mental Health for the Public Health Professional Training: Participants gain an understanding of the foundations of public mental health and identify ways to incorporate facets of public mental health promotion into their practice. To learn more or register for the next available training, please click here.
    • The Southeast MHTTC partnered with the Region IV Public Health Training Center (PHTC) and SAMHSA’s Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC) to develop resources addressing the aftermath of public health disasters including a two-part webinar series focusing on natural disasters and human-created disasters and an accompanying Mental Health Response fact sheet.
    • Integrating Social Determinants of Health into Clinical Practice: As mental health care providers work to address the needs of individuals in their day-to-day work, it can be both difficult and frustrating to treat mental health challenges without also treating the underlying contributors to those challenges. The Social Determinants of Mental Health (SDOMH) are the non-medical societal factors that influence the mental health outcomes of patients, peers, and clients. These intersecting conditions in which a person is born, in which they age, live, and work, all factor into that person’s health. During this in-depth, 3-hour training course hosted by the Southeast MHTTC, participants learn how to identify the SDOMH, how to systematically measure for them in clinical practice, and how to connect patients with the appropriate community resources.
  • Data Visualization Resources: The Southeast MHTTC's 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.
  • As a part of a Regional Needs Assessment, the Southeast MHTTC mapped the public sector mental health infrastructure of the Region IV states and developed provider trainings based on states’ preferences to build mental health leadership capacity across the region. We also recently issued an updated report on regional mental health priorities.

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.
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