Throughout the month of May, Americans experience an increased focus on mental health issues during Mental Health Awareness Month. This time aims to “fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.”
Whether you’ve suffered from mental health issues yourself, or you’ve supported a friend, family member, or loved one through a season of mental illness, you know the need.
It’s important to note, however, that for many, mental health issues do not operate in a vacuum. For those seeking treatment for addiction, it’s important to be aware of the link between addiction and mental illness.
You Are Not Alone During Mental Health Awareness or Ever
When you’re struggling, it’s easy to feel alone and isolated.
That’s why, during Mental Health Awareness Month 2021, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has adopted the theme “You Are Not Alone”. Focusing on the healing value of connecting in safe, effective ways, NAMI hopes to destigmatize mental illness. Thus, promoting channels by which those suffering can reach out and get help.
This is an especially important message for those who battle mental illness and are also struggling with substance abuse.
Substance Abuse and Mental Illness
Many individuals who develop substance abuse issues are also diagnosed with mental disorders. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the data demonstrates a clear link between the two.
Substance use disorders…co-occur at high prevalence with mental disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychotic illness, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. Patients with schizophrenia have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use disorders than the general population.
People with mental disorders are at particularly high risk of abusing opioids, which are highly addictive, but these aren’t the only types of substances that are likely to be abused. People with mental illnesses (diagnosed or undiagnosed) are also highly prone to alcoholism.
These are all serious issues, and they must be addressed with compassionate expertise.
Addressing the Issues During Mental Health Awareness
How you approach addressing the issues may depend on how you understand them.
While it may seem logical to assume that those with mental health struggles have begun to abuse substances as a way to self-soothe or self-medicate, that’s not always the case. Prolonged use and abuse of substances can also give rise to anxiety, depression, and other psychotic reactions.
To understand the big picture, we must step back and consider these three facts:
- Alcohol and drugs can be used to self-medicate.
- Abuse may actually be amplifying underlying risks for mental disorders.
- Alcohol and drug abuse can make symptoms of existing conditions more pronounced.
If you or a loved one is grappling with both substance abuse issues and mental health concerns, you may feel overwhelmed. But take heart. Help is available, and you are not alone.
Help Is Available
In the case of a dual diagnosis, the best approach to healing is to take an integrated approach in which substance abuse disorders and mental health concerns are addressed simultaneously.
- Treatment for mental health may include therapy, group counseling, medication, and/or peer support.
- Treatment for substance abuse may include detoxification, behavioral therapy, and ongoing support/accountability.
In an integrated approach, you don’t concentrate on first one issue and then the other. Instead, you experience a synergistic effect as your treatments combine to show results.
We Can Help
Here at Fairwinds Treatment Center, we are here to help those struggling with addiction get their life back on track during Mental Health Awareness and beyond. If you are looking for a treatment center for addiction or have further questions about the link between mental illness and substance abuse issues, please feel free to contact us at any time.
We look forward to serving you!