Each year, millions of people – approximately one in five Americans – face the impeding reality of living with a mental illness. Yet despite its prevalence in our society, we often speak about mental illness as though it is some foreign, abnormal state that we’ve never encountered before. As a result, those affected tend to feel isolated, ashamed, alone, and different from other people.
The fact is, mental health disorders exist all around us. Many times, it is our neighbors, friends, and family members who are affected. This May marks Mental Health Awareness Month and this month, Turnbridge would like to change the conversation surrounding mental health.
Every May, Mental Health America and its affiliates, along with organizations, communities, and even individuals nationwide, observe Mental Health Awareness Month. Also referred to as Mental Health Month, MHAM is dedicated to spreading the word about mental illness – its presence, its effects, its risk factors – and to reducing the stigma around it. Mental Health Month is also about promoting positive mental health in ourselves and those around us, and to making small changes to better our wellbeing.
Why is Mental Health Month Important?
Mental Health Awareness Month sheds light on the fact that one in every five people in the United States – including children and young adults – are battling a mental health condition. This includes depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, eating disorders, and self-harm, among others. People that you know, even your loved ones, may be struggling with one of these “invisible disorders,” but may be afraid to ask for help.
There is a great stigma surrounding mental health disorders. Similar to the stigma of addiction, many individuals perceive mental illness as this “scary” or unknown subject that they’d rather sidestep than talk about. Many of us don’t know how to talk about mental health, because we do not fully understand the complexity of it. The problem is, not talking about mental health is exactly what builds this stigma. And this stigma is toxic. It creates an environment of shame, fear, and silence, preventing millions of Americans from getting the treatment that they deserve.
As the National Alliance on Mental Illness states, “The perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it.”
In order for a person to feel truly happy and healthy – mentally, physically, and emotionally – in the case of mental illness, specialized, professional treatment is needed. This is especially the case when there is another, co-occurring substance use disorder at play.
Co-occurring Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders
When a person is struggling with a psychiatric disorder and a substance addiction simultaneously, they are said to have co-occurring disorders or “dual diagnosis.” This means that a single individual is battling multiple disorders at once.
Research shows that those battling mental illness are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol in their lifetime. They are experiencing emotional or mental distress, and self-medicate using mood-altering substances. We see this all the time – “drowning” the pain with alcohol, using drugs to “escape” reality or a stressful situation, smoking pot to “relieve” anxieties. Of the millions of Americans battling co-occurring disorders, about 89 percent are believed to have developed mental illness first. However, the same can happen vice versa. Substance abuse can lead to the onset of psychiatric disorders, too.
Recognizing the Signs of Mental Health & Co-Occurring Disorders
On average, the onset of mental illness usually starts in a person’s teen years, around 14 years old. A person’s first experimentation with drugs or alcohol also typically happens at this age. If and when it occurs, substance addiction generally follows between the ages of 17 and 21.
If your child is at risk for a substance use and/or mental health disorder, it is important to know about the signs of dual diagnosis early on. As the National Council of Behavior Health suggests, though, these symptoms can also be masked during the teenage years. The warning signs of drug use and of mental health disorders often appear similar to average teen development and behavior: think withdrawal from family members, moodiness, wanting more privacy and becoming more secretive. This infographic can help you distinguish which signs are worrisome. For more information, you may visit one of Turnbridge’s articles below:
- The Signs of Drug Addiction in Young Adults
- Identifying the Signs & Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders
The Importance of Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Evidence shows that recovery is most successful – that a person can find long-lasting healing – with an integrated treatment program, in which both their substance use and mental health disorders are treated simultaneously. In fact, dual diagnosis treatment centers often lead to lower relapse rates, reduced suicide attempts, and longer-term abstinence among their graduates.
Because substance abuse and mental health disorders are so intertwined (affecting the same areas of the brain), treating just one disorder on its own will not necessarily lead to the healing of the other. At Turnbridge, mental health and substance use disorders are treated together, at the same time and place, using a combination of behavioral therapies. We take into consideration all aspects of a person’s addiction story: psychological, emotional, physical, social – and get to the root of the issues at hand. It is then that a person can truly understand their mental health, and begin their journey towards recovery.
This Mental Health Awareness Month, help us spread the word and reduce the stigma around mental illness and addiction – so that no one is ever ashamed to pursue the help they need. For more information about our dual diagnosis treatment programs for young women, or dual diagnosis program for young men, contact Turnbridge at 877-581-1793 today.