Meet Us! History

Meet Us! History


The Mental Health Bell: A Symbol of Hope.

About Mental Health America of the MidSouth

Mental Health America of the MidSouth (formerly known as Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee) was founded in 1946 by Vanderbilt psychiatrist, Frank Luton, M.D., with underwriting by the Junior League of Nashville. Our mission is to connect the community with specialized mental health and wellness resources, provide services that improve the quality of life, and promote effective services where mental health needs exist. Over the years, MHA of the MidSouth has worked diligently to educate all members of our community about how to attain good mental health. We share our message of hope for mental wellness with thousands of individuals annually.

By being a front-line resource for the community for so many decades, MHA of the MidSouth identifies important mental health needs in Tennessee, and we often facilitate the development of programs to meet those needs or enhance resources to address service gaps. Learn more about why the Bell of Hope is our symbol.


Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation’s oldest and largest mental health advocacy organization. It was founded by Clifford Beers, a consumer of mental health services, in 1909. It was originally the mental hygiene movement that became Mental Health America. At its centennial celebration the name was changed to Mental Health America, and many of the independent affiliates followed suit.

Mental Health America of the MidSouth (MHAMidSouth) was founded in 1946 by Vanderbilt psychiatrist, Frank Luton, M.D., with underwriting provided by the Junior League of Nashville. The core of the organization was a helpline and community resources, which remain a constant today. In 1988, the agency expanded from serving Nashville to serving Middle Tennessee. MHA of the MidSouth grew to provide many programs and services that are available statewide today.

Throughout its history, MHA of the MidSouth launched or helped start the Dede Wallace Center (now part of Centerstone), Tennessee Voices for Children, Park Center, the Crisis Intervention Center, the Mental Health Cooperative, an adult daycare center, Hickory Hall School, and many other Middle Tennessee mainstays.

Today, 1 in 4 people have a diagnosable mental illness in the United States. Half of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14. Suicide is a top-10 cause of death, and it is the most preventable form of death. About 75 percent of all substance abuse is accompanied by a diagnosable mental illness. Mental illnesses include depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, suicide ideation, eating disorders, postpartum depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, aspects of bullying, and so much more.

Based on its history, MHA is unique in that it was founded by a consumer of mental health services, has hundreds of incorporated affiliates, and was founded on prevention, recovery, social inclusion, and other vital aspects of mental health.