May is Mental Health Awareness month and as a clinical provider, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge this on the blog. I have been helping people who have been diagnosed with mental illness and substance addiction for almost ten years. One thing is for certain, there are a lot of people in need and very little consistency with educating society about mental illness. It seems the only times we hear about mental illness is when a celebrity is in the spotlight or when a tragedy happens. Why is this the case? Mental illness is not cookie cutter, it is not a one size fits all, it shows up differently in every person. One of my passions is to help people in need of mental health and addiction care by providing a safe space and foundation for the road to recovery.
Here are some insights:
You are not alone
Mental illness and substance addiction are more prevalent than you may have known. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 1 in 5 U.S. adults will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime and about 10 million adults live with a serious mental illness. Often, these conditions begin in childhood or adolescence.
Depression is the leading cause of disability
When I was starting out, a psychiatrist explained depression was a silent disease. Many people with depression continue their daily activities (work, life obligations, family responsibilities) despite what may be happening in their mind and body. People are depressed but we may not know it until the depression becomes more severe. That means, there may be someone in your life who is having a depressed episode and you may not know it. Depression can be experienced by anyone, at any point in their life. There is no rhyme or reason.
Addiction and mental illness can go hand-in-hand
Dual Diagnosis or Co-Occurring disorders is when a person experiences both mental illness and substance addiction. It is up to the provider to evaluate the patient and figure out what came first, the chicken or the egg. Did the person use substances to cope with their mental illness or did the mental illness come as a result of their substance use. Given both issues impact a person’s neurotransmitters in the brain and are considered to be a disease, this can be difficult to assess. One thing is for sure, we have to get the person clean and stable before we can effectively address any other issues.
We have to educate about suicide prevention
With suicide being the 10th leading cause of death (www.cdc.org) in the United States, there should be more conversations. People often don’t talk about suicide until it is too late. The Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why, has explored suicide, the effects a death by suicide can have on family friends, and the depression which can contribute to suicidal thoughts. Suicide is preventable and people can get help. Here’s a great resource if you feel or know so someone who has thoughts of suicide or self-harm: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255, they can speak with you online, by phone, or by text. You can also reach out to your local crisis line or emergency department.
You can recover
Not to be cliche but there is help available. Although the current administration has cut funding from programs and mental health treatment, there are a host of support groups and advocates who are helping people recover from addiction and mental illness each day. An important aspect of recovery is that it needs to be defined by the person. A doctor, therapist, nurse, family member cannot tell you what it looks like for you to recover. You have to feel it and know what it means to have hope about your life. Recovery does not mean life will be perfect, it means you are able to cope and build resilience, you use your supports, you check-in with yourself, you do things for self-care. Recovery is inevitable if you believe it.
Here are some additional resources to educate yourself about mental illness and addiction:
Stay tuned for more posts about mental wellness, what I am doing for self-care, and what you can do to support someone in need.