The words didn’t always come easy for the seven patients who gathered in the chapel at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute, but the excitement in the room was evident. It was graduation day, and they were making a milestone in their recovery.

Participation in Nashville’s BRIDGES program

In partnership with the Tennessee Mental Health Consumers’ Association (TMHCA), these patients were among the first at MTMHI to be taking an active role in leading their own recovery and taking ownership in understanding and managing their mental illness. “They are the first here to participate in the BRIDGES program,” said TMHCA Program Director David Reichert. “You can absolutely recover from a mental illness.”

“I’ve been able to learn what the doctors know,” said one man. “I have a mental illness that I can recover from. I may never be cured, but I can see how the medicine will affect me. This is a great resource to have.”

Since its founding by TMHCA in 1995, BRIDGES has been implemented in large and small communities across Tennessee. Annually, more than 3,000 individuals take part in the program which stands for Building Recovery of Individual Dreams and Goals through Education and Support.

At MTMHI, the 10-week program includes classes on mental illness, treatment, self help skills, and the philosophy of recovery. The pilot project looks to greatly improve patient outcomes and to reduce re-admissions and the need for crisis services once a patient is discharged.

“Through this program, patients will learn so much about themselves,” said Reichert. “They will create and implement a wellness and recovery path that’s unique to them. We give them the tools, empower them, and then watch as they move forward to achieve their own life goals and dreams.”

“This took a lot of personal dedication and a lot of work on your part,” said Joyce Kovacs, MTMHI Assistant Superintendent. “I hope you use the tools and knowledge you’ve gained. We support you. No one recovers in isolation.” MTMHI began a second Bridges class last month.

See more stories like this one from the May Update from the Nashville Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.