Mental Health Starts From the Very Beginning!

Monday, April 27, 2015 | 01:03pm

A Message from Commissioner E. Douglas Varney In Celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month. ​The mental health of our children, like their physical health, starts from the beginning. The first five years of life are most important, but always know it’s never too late to seek help.

What’s most important is that we offer our children connected, loving, and supportive relationships. Consider this the foundation for their social-emotional development, creating the opportunity for a lifetime of success.

In my lifetime as a behavioral health professional and in serving as Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, I have seen the progress that’s been made in better understanding what our children need most in the first five years and beyond.

Here are some ways you can help:

• Provide a safe environment for your child to live and grow
• Spend quality time interacting with your child
• Teach your child about how to safely express their feelings
• Make sure your child visits their pediatrician regularly and discuss any concerns
• Explore community resources to help support your family’s needs

Sadly, many of Tennessee’s children are at great risk of developing lifelong behavioral issues due to factors such as experiencing violence, being around substance abuse, lack of attention and attachment to a primary caregiver, and other stressors.

When problems like this continue, they can lead to long-term mental health and substance abuse issues, getting involved in the criminal justice system and needing professional treatment.

As a father and grandfather, I share your desire to want those we love so much to experience all the joy that life has to offer. They are precious and count on us to protect them.

If you’d like additional information on fostering good mental health for the children in your life, talk with your healthcare provider or visit

We all have the opportunity and responsibility to positively impact the mental health of Tennessee’s children. And they’re counting on all of us to help lead the way.

Respectfully, E. Douglas Varney