Mental Illness & Chattanooga’s AIM Center 

by | May 25, 2022

Today, mental health is more critical than ever, and, as we reflect on Mental Health Awareness month, the United Way of Greater Chattanooga honors the work of the AIM Center to promote stability for its members and to support mental health in the community. Statistics suggest that as many as 1 in 5 American adults experience mental illness during their lifetime and the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that COVID-19 increased the global prevalence of anxiety and depression by as much as 25%.  

Naomi Judd visited Chattanooga in 2014 for a compelling conversation with Alison Lebovitz on “The A List” and in her 2016 book, “River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope” the Country Music star revealed that she had suffered from suicidal depression and mental health. Abuse, mental health, and her Hepatitis-C diagnosis were the focus of her two-part conversation with Chattanooga’s PBS audience. Recently, in an essay to NBC, the megastar wrote, “I never dealt with all the stuff that happened to me, so it came out sideways, as depression and anxiety.”  In the wake of her recent death, Naomi Judd’s words continue to inspire us today, reminding anyone living with mental illness that, “There’s power in numbers: it means that there are other people. You’re not alone.” 

In Chattanooga, the AIM Center has been fighting the stigma of mental illness since 1989. A United Way Partner Agency, they are funded through State, City, community support and private donors, offering employment, education, housing, socialization, and wellness opportunities for adults living with serious mental illness in tandem with other mental health professionals who provide comprehensive mental health services.  

A clubhouse model of psychosocial rehabilitation empowers participants to develop relationships and create individualized plans for recovery while working with members, staff, and community. Recovery is defined as successful management of a mental illness condition and clubhouse members begin to feel needed, wanted, accepted, and discover strengths and abilities, building relationships based on mutual respect and shared contributions.  

Work each day includes the Administrative Services Unit, the Employment Resource Unit, the Visual Communications Unit, and the Member Support Unit with daily unit meetings and activities centered on employment readiness, computer, reading, math, culinary, health, and other life skills. The Clubhouse approach is organized around the belief that work is restorative and provides a firm foundation for growth and individual achievement and the philosophy that normalized social and recreational opportunities are an important part of the path to recovery.  

When news icon Jane Pauley visited the AIM Center in 2015, she talked with “The A List” about her diagnosis of bi-polar disorder, applauded the work of the center, highlighting its innovative approach and celebrating the international recognition its work has garnered in the mental health community. Reflecting on these conversations, Alison commented, “When people like Jane Pauley and Naomi Judd boldly and bravely share their personal struggles with mental illness, it was and remains a critical reminder that behind the stigma of mental illness are countless stories that need to be told, heard and embraced.” She continued, “We are so lucky to live in a community with a support system like the AIM Center that is doing just that.” 

The United Way of Greater Chattanooga joins the community in honoring Mental Health Awareness month, amplifying the voices of our family members, co-workers, neighbors, and friends living with mental illnesses and promoting and celebrating the agencies providing critical mental health services. For information about the AIM Center, visit online at aimcenterinc.org and visit the United Way helpline for community resources.  

The A List – Naomi Judd, Part 1  


The A List – Naomi Judd, Part 2 


The A List – Jane Pauley