Episode #2 - Advocating for the Voiceless: a Conversation with Tom Starling, Board Chair of Mental H


In Episode 2 of the Food For Thought Mental Health Podcast, we spoke with Tom Starling, president and CEO of middle-Tennessee MHA since 2009 and board chair of Mental Health America.

Originally from Texas, 26 years ago Tom received an MDiv in Theology and since then has acquired a Masters in medical ethics and a Doctorate in education administration. Tom has been recognized for 6 consecutive years among Nashville’s “In Charge” Health Leaders and was selected as the “Health Care Hero” by the Nashville Business Journal in 2012. In 2017, Tom was recognized as one of the Nashville Business Journal's Most Admired CEOs. Tom has served as a supreme court mediator since 2007.

Tom has served in numerous CEO roles and has a reputation for being a charismatic leader and change-maker. He has previously served as CEO of the Middle Tennessee Alzheimer’s Association, as CEO of United Way of Rutherford County, and as a university administrator and hospital chaplain for institutions in Texas and Tennessee.

Leadership has been a part of Tom’s life from a young age, as he was an avid Scout and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in his youth. Tom lives with his family in Tennessee and will be speaking with us today about the role that advocacy organizations play in supporting families and individuals dealing with serious mental illness.

Tom spoke with us about not only Mental Health America, but also how advocacy organizations in general play a role in supporting families and individuals dealing with mental illness. Other organizations similar to MHA include NAMI, DBSA, the Treatment Advocacy Center, and SARDAA, the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America, to just name a few.

This podcast focused on three main talking points:

  • What are the major advocacy groups in the US and their differences

  • How do their missions impact families and professionals in mental health

  • How do they serve families not living in urban areas and what other resources are available


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