* National Alliance on Mental Illness, Chattanooga


* AIM Center


* Fortwood Center


* Johnson Mental Health Center


* Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute


* Parkridge Valley Hospital


* Crisis Resources in Tennessee and Georgia:


Call 911 and ask for the "Crisis Intervention Team" in the case of an emergency involving someone with mental illness

Call 1800-SUICIDE for adults contemplating suicide or 1800-621-4000 for adolescents

Call 211 for social service help from Chattanooga

Call 1800-467-3589 for the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline and resource referral

Call 423-870-9033 or 877-567-6051 for walk-in crisis care at Johnson Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services


Call 911 and ask for the "Crisis Intervention Team" in the case of an emergency involving someone with mental illness

Call 1800-SUICIDE for adults contemplating suicide or 1800-621-4000 for adolescents

Call the Georgia crisis and access line at 1800-715-4225

Call the Lookout Mountain Community Services for crisis or assistance at 706-866-6885

Call the peer support and wellness center in Decatur, Ga. at 404-371-1414

Call the NAMI Georgia helpline at 1800-728-1052

Source: NAMI

Before anyone came to the stage, a television flashed with names and diagnoses.

Leo Tolstoy. Mentally ill. Ludwig van Beethoven. Manic depression. John Keats. Mentally ill. Isaac Newton. Manic depression. Michelangelo. Mentally ill. Winston Churchill. Bipolar. Charles Dickens. Clinical depression.

Then a clip of news footage was shown in which news anchor Brian Williams said Ariel Castro, the man who abducted and held three women for more than a decade in Cleveland, was "the face of mental illness."

A short, retired engineer came to the stage. Her words were punctuated with energy and frustration.

"There is no real face of mental illness," said Sylvia Phillips, the mother of a college student with bipolar disorder, to the crowd of nearly 75 people crammed into the Camp House in downtown Chattanooga last week. "We need to stand strong and stamp out stigma."

High profile school shootings and kidnappings in recent years have reinvigorated debate about mental illness and have left long shadows over those who suffer from crippling brain disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, attention deficit disorder, borderline personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Some think that mental illness is linked to extreme violence. Some think it equates to isolation and suffering. Some think that mental illness is just a sign of spiritual depravity. Some think that mental illness shouldn't be discussed publicly, that diagnoses are shameful.

The public forum held Thursday at Camp House, during what Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke proclaimed as mental health awareness week in the city, was intended to stamp out some of these misunderstandings. A mix of psychologists, counselors, mental health providers and clergy from around Chattanooga talked about the facts of mental illness and the misinformation.

The panel -- including Chattanooga Crisis Intervention Team Manager Wanda Mays, the Rev. Ben Skidmore, psychiatrist Saki Lawson, psychologist Ryan Thompson and therapist Kimberly Morris -- was brought together in honor of the national Mental Health Awareness Week. Organizers from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and the National Alliance on Mental Illness said the event will be held annually.

One in 17 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, while one in four adults, or 57.7 million, experiences a mental health disorder in a given year. Ten percent of children suffer from serious emotional and mental disorders, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"By 2020, major depressive illness will be the leading cause of disability in the world for woman and children," according to the World Health Organization.

Still, even though it touches many families and medications improve conditions greatly, there are many who don't believe brain disorders are real, treatable health conditions.

"We have allowed stigma and a now unwarranted sense of hopelessness to erect attitudinal, structural and financial barriers to effective treatment and recovery," the NAMI website reads. "It is time to take these barriers down."

No one worries about sharing their struggle with cancer or diabetes, said Donna Maddox, director of Johnson Mental Health, at the forum.

"Amen," a men yelled from the back.

Joe Herman said he suffered from the ups and downs of bipolar disorder for years, spending much time in hospitals. But with support, counseling and medicine he found stability.

He now leads a support group for others.

A few years ago, his doctor told him to do something fun. He signed up for ballroom dance classes and met his future wife, a mental health counselor.

"I found meaning in my suffering," Herman said.

He said those that do what he did can live a meaningful life, too.

"The monster was real. I now realize I can't kill the monster, but I know what it looks like. People that build this fortress around them can beat the monster," he said.

Contact staff writer Joan Garrett McClane at jmcclane