Mental health disorders affect millions of Americans and even more worldwide. The World Health Organization(WHO) estimates that more than 300 million people worldwide battle depression, and only a small percentage of those individuals ever receive any kind of treatment. This is not unique when it comes to people living with any form of mental illness, whether it be addiction, depression or both—the clear majority are left untreated.
Without treatment, those struggling with symptoms of mental health disorders are far more likely to self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol. A behavior that may mitigate the impact of one’s symptoms initially, but over time their symptoms are worsened as a result of using mind-altering substances to cope. One may picture a snake eating its tail, at some point it becomes untenable. Addiction often ensues and one’s depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, et al. progresses to the breaking point. It is not uncommon for such people to make rash decisions that cannot be undone (e.g. suicide).
So, then what is to be done? How do we as nation and beyond encourage people to make the decision to seek help? What’s more, how can we ensure that those living with mental illness have access to resources that can assist them in reining in their disease. The easiest answer, is also a good starting point. Talking about mental health disorders regarding the signs, symptoms and prevalence is perhaps the most efficient method of eroding the stigma that has accompanied such disorders for far too long. One of the biggest barriers preventing people from seeking help is the fear of talking about their symptoms.
Mental Health Month
Every May, Mental Health America (MHA) and their affiliates observe Mental Health Month (MHM). The goal is to encourage communities around the country to have a hand in ending the stigma of mental illness by way of various media platforms, local events and screenings. You are invited to take an active role in encouraging loved ones, peers and perfect strangers to reach out for help. The MHAs theme this year is titled Risky Business:
“We believe it’s important to educate people about habits and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illnesses, or could be signs of mental health problems themselves.”
If you have been touched by any form of mental illness, MHA encourages sharing on social media what it feels like. You never know how your experience can affect change in others. The message being that it is OK to talk about what you are going through, and in doing so you will discover that you are not alone and more importantly—help is available. “Don’t keep mental illness to yourself.”
There’s power in sharing #mentalillnessfeelslike
For more information on spreading the word regarding this most important topic, you can download a toolkit here.
Many Americans who have used substances to treat mental illness develop addiction. A significant number of people living in active addiction also develop a co-occurring mental illness. It doesn’t matter which one came first. What is important is the action taken to treat both disorders, and working a program of long-term recovery.
Treating one problem and failing to address the other can be disastrous. Relapse, or worse, is oftentimes the result. Fortunately, effective measures of treating co-occurring disorders (sometimes referred to as a dual diagnosis) are available. If you are struggling with a co-occurring disorder in addition to your addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, please contact Simple Recovery. Our experienced staff understands the stakes of not treating the whole patient, and are qualified to help you break the cycle of addiction, address any other relevant mental health disorders and show you how to live a productive and healthy life in recovery.