Ask Ridgeview    

Mental illnesses are medical illnesses. One in 4 adults experiences a mental health problem in any given year; one in 17 individuals across the nation lives with a serious, mental illness.  The good news is that treatment does work and recovery is possible.

On average individuals living with serious mental illness have a life span 25 years less than the rest of the population. Reasons contributing to this include the reality that less than one-third of adults with a diagnosed serious mental illness seek and /or receive treatment, and many of these individuals experience other complex medical conditions.

The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that stigma is a major barrier to people seeking help when they need it. Ask Ridgeview hopes to helppeople understand mental illness and join a dialogue on our website. The more people know, the better they can help themselves or help their loved ones get the help and support they need.


Questions and Answers for Ask Ridgeview

Can You Help Us?

I am trying desperately to get my twenty-five year old son into a rehab facility.  He has never been, and he is willing and has agreed to go into one to receive help and tools to help him battle this disease for a lifetime.  Everywhere I have called there is a waiting list of about one and a half years.  He won't be alive by then.  The drugs are going to kill him, shorten his life, and no telling what else.  He can not come off by himself.  He has tried numerous times.  He is a very smart young man when he is clean.  He has already lost numerous jobs, family members, friends, and his children.  He is a Christian.  He has a strong belief in God and the Christian faith.  But lately, he has gotten to the point where he wants to give up, there is nothing to live for.  Which goes against everything he was raised to believe.  Because of the disease, he has lost his insurance because of no job. 

 I have exhausted all my financial resources trying to "fix" him.  As well as emotional and physical resources.  I am his mother.  I can not give up on him-if I do, then he most certainly will give up.  I am not enabling him financially to buy his habit-nor do I know where he is getting it-all I know is that I am losing my son fast-please help me. 

I do not understand why our society puts billions of dollars into more jails instead of billions of dollars towards resources that can help humans get and stay clean.  Jails are not the answer.  They are only postponing the inevitable, death.  Sooner than later.  He wants and I stress WANTS to get better. 

Please if you know anything or anyone that can help us, I would be indebted to you for my entire life, and my son and grandchildren

A True Friend

Due to the urgency of this letter, Ridgeview contacted the writer and provided immediate assistance.  The information below is provided as guidance for others with loved ones who need help with substance abuse.


Dear True Friend:

Those who abuse substances such as drugs and alcohol may need a family intervention.  The addicted person might be in denial and not see anything wrong with his behavior.  A family intervention is a way to express the concern and the feelings of family and friends in regard to the loved one’s substance use disorders.

People who have addictive personalities can be more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Sometimes, social and casual drinking or using drugs can lead to excessive use.  Warning signs of a substance abuser could be domestic problems at home, termination of a job, debt, criminal acts, stealing and lying to those they care about. If any of these are occurring, a family intervention could help the addict to get the treatment that he/she needs.

The family and friends who are concerned about their loved one’s substance use disorders will gather and plan an intervention. Careful planning and preparation is important; the intervention should not be spur of the moment.  Planning the date and the time of the intervention is vital, and the best time would be when the addicted person would most likely be sober, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The family must contact treatment centers and seek the advice of an expert intervention counselor. The interventionist will have the family gather for two to three sessions before the actual intervention session, according to Intervention Resource Center.  At these sessions, the family will write down and practice what they are going to say to the addicted person at the actual intervention.  The treatment center is also set up for the addict before the intervention and a bag is packed, in hopes that he/she chooses to accept the help.

Consequences for the addict if he/she refuses help and treatment on the day of the intervention will be stated by the family and friends.  These are not meant to hurt the addict, but are meant to protect the loved ones from abuse, according to Intervention Resource Center.  A spouse may file for divorce and take the children away; the addict may lose the emotional and financial support that the friends and family members have been giving, and an employer may terminate his/her employment.

It is very important at the intervention to make the addict choose that day to enter treatment. If a loved one asks for time to think it over, he still is in denial of his substance abuse problem.  Most likely, if he/she doesn’t choose treatment that day, he/she may act out dangerously due to the confrontation, go on a binge or go into hiding, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Ridgeview can provide information about support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous, as well as referrals to residential treatment programs.  If the individual prefers individual outpatient counseling, you can call Ridgeview at 865-482-1076 for an intake appointment for an assessment by a therapist. 


I have a family member that has two serious mental illnesses (schizophrenia and Bi-polar disorder). She receive a very small (under $500 per month) disability income. 

     She currently lives with us and we supervisor her meds, money, etc. It is becoming more of a burden than we can tolerate. She needs some type daily supervision.  Are there group homes for the mentally ill in East TN? If so, how do I locate them and how does one apply?   Can she afford to live in one with such a small income? She does have government health insurance.

Stressed and Overwhelmed


Dear Stressed and Overwhelmed,

Thank you for your important question related to the continuing care of your family member. Your burden is certainly understood in that caring for a family member on a daily basis can, and often does, become a stressful and overwhelming journey for all involved. What you are experiencing may be a form of care-giver burn-out. It may be helpful to know that as you seek the best for your family member, there are resources and services available for you as well. Information on family support resources is available by contacting NAMI, the East Tennessee Mental Health Association and/or Ridgeview.       

In response to your question about group homes, there are basically two types of residential group homes available in this area: agency operated group homes and independently owned and operated group homes. There are variations in the eligibility requirements and services provided between the two types. Some things to look for when exploring group homes are whether it is licensed and staffed 24/7 and if the residents have access to mental health case management services, psychiatric care and social support. Your family member deserves a safe and healthy environment which promotes recovery and independence.

Please feel free to call and request information on Ridgeview’s Supportive Housing program and other group homes in the area (865-482-1076). We can offer you assistance in the coordination and linkage of services and schedule an intake appointment if indicated.


Hi! I just read about this service on googlenews. I had Roux en Y Gastric Bypass Surgery 6 years ago and was only diagnosed with depression at the time. I have since come to believe I am actually type II bipolar. Is there a California Doctor or expert with whom I can connect to get treatment that is right for my altered digestive system?

Given your surgery was preformed 6 years ago, you are well aware that people who undergo gastric bypass surgery must be prepared for significant lifestyle changes; therefore, a comprehensive evaluation is routinely advised (and often required) to determine if gastric bypass surgery is the best option. The evaluation is done to help determine if the person can make a lifetimecommitment to becoming healthier. The evaluation is also used as a tool to rule out significant eating disorders or other major psychiatric illnesses that may affect the results of surgery. Some of these issues would need to be appropriately diagnosed and treated prior to surgery.

A mental health diagnosis needs to be given by a qualified mental health professional. Mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder can be treated by a number of different professionals including social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. The differences found in the mood disorder spectrum between depression and bipolar have to deal with characteristics found in the episodes of the illness at its worst.

With depression, symptoms can include feelings of hopelessness, appetite changes, loss of interest in things that once brought happiness, sleep changes, irritability, fatigue and, in some cases, even suicidal thoughts. With a bipolar disorder, symptoms can include all of the depression symptoms, but also episodes of mania , where an individual may show the following signs; talks rapidly, doesn’t rest, can’t sit still, and engages in extremely risky behaviors. It is important to stress, however, that each of us can experience many of these symptoms and yet do not suffer from a mental illness. That is why it is imperative that one work with a professional if these symptoms cause you distress or impair you everyday functioning.

Thus, your question about a local professional is a good one! One good place to start would be the Mental Health Association in your state.  I hope the information below will be helpful to you in locating a professional in your area. 

Mental Health Association in California
1127 11th Street, Suite 925
Sacramento, CA 95814
Office: (916) 557-1167
Fax: (916) 447-2350


My daughter is in a relationship where she is constantly degraded, threatened, and bullied.  Her kids see it happening all the time.  How can I help her?

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence advises having a safety plan if you are a victim of domestic violence.  Below are some suggestions for a safety plan.
If you are still in the relationship:

  • Think of a safe place to go if an argument occurs - avoid rooms with no exits (bathroom), or rooms with weapons (kitchen).
  • Think about and make a list of safe people to contact.
  • Memorize all important numbers.
  • Establish a "code word" or "sign" so that family, friends, teachers or co-workers know when to call for help.
  • Think about what you will say to your partner if he\she becomes violent.

If you have left the relationship:

  • Change your phone number.
  • Screen calls.
  • Save and document all contacts, messages, injuries or other incidents involving the batterer.
  • Change locks, if the batterer has a key.
  • Avoid staying alone.
  • Plan how to get away if confronted by an abusive partner.
  • If you have to meet your partner, do it in a public place.
  • Vary your routine.
  • Notify school and work contacts.
  • Call a shelter for battered women.

They also advise that, If you leave the relationship or are thinking of leaving, you should take important papers and documents with you to enable you to apply for benefits or take legal action.  Important papers you should take include social security cards and birth certificates for you and your children, your marriage license, leases or deeds in your name or both yours and your partner's names, your checkbook, your charge cards, bank statements and charge account statements, insurance policies, proof of income for you and your spouse (pay stubs or W-2's), and any documentation of past incidents of abuse (photos, police reports, medical records, etc.).

Here are some places in our area that victims of domestic abuse can call for help.

Serenity Shelter
(865) 673-6551
(865) 971-4673 Hotline

The Joy Baker Center of the Salvation Army
(865) 522-4673

Family Crises Center
(865) 673-3066
(865) 637-8000 Hotline

Victim Advocacy Program of the YWCA
(865) 523-6126
(865) 637-8000 Hotline

Haven House, Inc.
(865) 983-6818
(865) 982-1087 Hotline

Lenoir City
Domestic Violence Crises Center
(865) 988-7867 Hotline


I keep reading about Meth in all the papers. What is Meth and how come so many people are ruining their lives with it?

Methamphetamine use is a growing problem in the United States today. Meth is a powerful man-made substance which affects the central nervous system. It is a highly addictive substance. The main reason for its popularity today is that it is relatively cheap to make and its high lasts considerably longer than other street stimulants.

Meth began to be a national problem in the 1990s due mainly to the over-the-counter availability of ingredients, creation of little “homemade” labs that were easy to make and take down, and the relatively low cost of the drug.  Methamphetamine cooks learn how to make the drug from common everyday household products which means the drug can be manufactured quickly and sold at low cost.  Methamphetamine is a white, odorless crystal-like powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol and can be taken orally, by injection or snorting. Meth can come in more than one form, but usually it is clear, chunky crystals resembling ice.  The most common way it is used is to smoke it which leads to a very fast intake into the brain. This is why it has such a high potential for abuse and ultimately addiction.

Signs and Symptoms:

From the VERY FIRST time someone uses the drug, there are certain physical signs and signals that vary from one person to another. You may have seen some of these on your local news or in your local paper.  They can include the following:

  • A constant “high” state ( excessively happy, loud, or appearing to be charged)
  • Little to no appetite
  • Very energetic, even not sleeping for days at a time
  • Anxiety such as hand shaking, nervousness, fidgety behavior
  • Rapid eye movements
  • Increased body temperature ( sometimes to 108 degrees; the normal is 98.6)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive sweating

Along with the above symptoms, some of the behavioral signs can include those below:

  • Paranoia ( thinking someone is out to get you )
  • Sleeplessness and possible severe depression or irritability
  • Teeth grinding/ bad teeth
  • Skin infections and ulcerations and/or what appears to be very bad acne
  • Burnt or blistered lips
  • Seizures
  • Sometimes violent and unpredictable behavior

Methamphetamine can cause rapid heart rates, increased blood pressure and severe damage to blood vessels in the brain often leading to heart attacks and stroke. Meth also has other physical hazards such as physical injury incurred through cooking accidents like explosions, fire and chemical burns. It is also said that for each pound of meth made, five or more ponds of hazardous waste are produced which often get dumped in lakes or rivers.

Another important consequence of making meth is the danger it can pose to household members, particularly the children, and the physical environment. Many children are constantly exposed to the hazards of the house labs, suffer burns to the skin and lungs, and are badly neglected or abused by parents or household members who are involved in this drug abuse.

There are no medications at this time to treat meth abuse, but several treatment approaches have worked well including behavioral interventions, group therapy, family education and 12-step support activities. As with any other drug addiction, the addicted person must firmly recognize his/her need for help and be committed to do all the work necessary to regain sobriety.



My mother recently had an operation and was prescribed medication for pain. It has been several months since her surgery but she is still taking these pills, maybe even more now than she did right after her operation.  Is this safe?

Pain medications, when used and prescribed properly, are not a bad thing. With that said, it sounds like your mom is on that slippery slope caused by the misuse and over use of her pain meds. Your concern is justified; the misuse of prescription drugs is on the rise. The majority of folks take their medications as prescribed, but an estimated 20 percent do not. Unfortunately there are a lot of people dealing with the same issues your mother appears to be struggling with.  This population is growing and the problem often leads to serious risks for a person’s health and well-being.

The 3 classes of drugs that are most commonly abused:

  • Opioids, which are sometimes referred to as pain medications – these are drugs such as codeine, oxycodone and morphine.
  • Sedatives and tranquilizers -barbiturates and benzodiazepines
  • Stimulants

Some of the potential serious health consequences associated with the misuse and abuse of these medications include respiratory problems, heart failure, seizures and damage to one’s major organs. This may sound strange but it is true; the inappropriate and unintended use of doctor prescribed medications can be as dangerous and harmful as using cocaine, crack and heroin. It is also illegal if an individual is requesting medication and engages in a behavior known as doctor shopping. Doctor shopping is when patients go to multiple doctors seeking prescriptions for drugs to abuse or sell. Obviously, this is not the intention or case with you mother. I only mention it because it is one of the causes of this growing problem and a sure sign of addiction. 

One of the most common problems with prescription drug abuse is the probability of addiction. A tell tale sign of this or any other addiction is the need to have that drug, otherwise known as dependency. Other signs and symptoms may include changes in mood and behavior and even physical changes such as weight loss.

I would offer the following tips to avoid starting down the subtle path to addition:

  • Take the medication as the doctor prescribed it.
  • Take the medication in the correct amount.
  • Make a note of the effects of that drug on your body and report any negative ones to your doctor.
  • Don’t increase or decrease the medication dosage on your own; always consult you doctor.
  • Never use someone else’s prescription.

The short answer to the question is that the misuse or abuse of pain medication is not safe. If you suspect that your mom needs help, I would advise that you assist her in contacting her doctor or a provider of mental health and substance abuse services, like Ridgeview, and discuss her situation further. 



When I go to see my psychiatrist for medication appointments, he frequently reminds me of the benefits of exercise. Why is he so concerned about my exercise routine? Why is this so important?

We hear the need for a healthier lifestyle, but the specific issue of mental health medications and exercise is an especially important one.

Mental health medications, as defined by Wikipedia, are any medications capable of affecting the mind, emotions, and behavior. Your doctor may even use the word, psychotropic medication. These are the medications used to treat a number of mental illnesses including psychotic disorders, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
Your doctor may be encouraging a regular exercise routine to off-set some of the negative side effects of your medication. Psychotropic medications, specifically antipsychotics and antidepressants, are associated with high rates of obesity and its complications including diabetes. Another reason that he may be promoting daily activity is because studies have shown that individuals with certain mental illnesses have a higher rate of heart problems and metabolism issues that are often associated with limited activity.

It is certainly understandable how feelings of depression or anxiety would impact your motivation to stay active. The ironic thing is that the more active you are, the better you will feel. Exercise alone is not a magic cure for all illnesses. However, research has shown that with regular physical exercise and a healthy diet, people on psychotropic medications can lose weight and reduce risks of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. 

You don’t have to be a marathoner to get the benefits of physical exercise. Moderate exercise improves physical fitness and overall health and wellness. It boosts the immune system and helps prevent heart disease, cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes and obesity. It also improves mental health, helps prevent depression and helps to promote or maintain positive self esteem. In addition, exercise increases energy and reduces levels of the stress hormones that our body produces. Exercise can also improve the quality of sleep! 

As we exercise, increased blood flow delivers more oxygen to the blood cells, releasing natural endorphins which are linked to a better mood. Better moods can help build self confidence. Exercise may also be a way to increase social interaction with others.

It is important to consult your primary care physician and to start out slowly when beginning an exercise program. If you have been inactive for a long time, it is advised that you begin with short periods of light exercise (for example a daily brisk walk) and gradually increase the intensity and length of the exercising.

There are 1,440 minutes in every day. Just 30 minutes a day goes a long way in improving physical and mental health. Some examples of easy ways to add exercise into your life are to take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk the dog, do housework at a fast pace, rake leaves or do other yard work. Choosing fun and different activities will make it easier to stick with an exercise program. Exercising with a friend or family member may help as well. You may find that listening to music while exercising helps you stay motivated.  Sticking to a regular time everyday or keeping a daily log of your progress may also be ways to make exercise a routine part of your life.  The best exercise program for you is one that you enjoy and you can stick with. 

To summarize, physical activity plays an important role in everyone’s life. The rewards of exercise are even greater in the lives of individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness and are being treated with psychotropic medication.