Co-occurring Disorders, also known as Dual Diagnosis, are on the rise and affect between 7-9 million people in a given year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA). When a person is dually diagnosed, it means that they are suffering from a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder at the same time. More than 50% of individuals with an addiction to drugs or alcohol also have a mental health disorder.
Since 2013, Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida has seen the number of overdoses from both fentanyl and heroin explode. Medical professionals and local officials in the Miami area are searching for ways to help get heroin users into treatment rather than serving jail time. In fact, this effort has caught on nationwide.
Cognitive remediation therapy (CRT), sometimes referred to as cognitive enhancement therapy, is a treatment method with the goal of helping an individual improve their memory, attention, organizational skills and information processing. This type of therapy was developed to help individuals struggling with psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, eating disorders, ADHD and traumatic brain injury. Cognitive remediation therapy is often completed in a computer-based classroom setting.
Depression is a mood disorder that can commonly onset immediately following a breakup or divorce with a partner. However, the condition can also be the leading factor in what caused the split between two people to begin with. Complications with mental health can wreak havoc on relationships which are already imperfect.
If you tried to paint a picture of an addict in your mind, you may automatically picture them as an irresponsible person that made poor life choices, as homeless or a criminal that’s deceitful and deviant. Those ideas couldn’t be further from the truth. Addiction doesn’t know a person’s age, gender, race, values or income. This terrible disease affects individuals from all walks of life.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness has continued to lead the effort to reduce the stigma around Mental Illness until we define it as Stigma free. Other mental health foundations are also bringing awareness by focusing on the theme of “Give” in their education efforts: Give your time, your words your presence. By exploring this theme of Give we are able to break stigmas that have plagued our family and friends that struggle with mental illness.
Why can’t we slow down? We spend a lot of our time wrapped up in what makes us feel good, how others perceive us and what is going to help us get ahead. Often, we are moving so fast through life that we forget about those who struggle with depression, anxiety, bipolar and other similar diagnoses, especially when it does not directly affect us. We become intolerant of those that cannot keep up or cannot understand or explain what’s wrong with them. Our society has evolved into a fast paced race for self-actualization. We often miss the importance of spending quality time with others.
Taking the time out of your fast paced day to give back to others will bless you and the person you are helping. Giving your time can be in service work. Or making a phone call to that friend you lost contact with or just in prayer for another. Anyway you choose to give your time, do so mindfully with all your focus being on the act you are choosing to do.
Are you quick to judge or offer unwanted criticism to others? Often people who struggle with mental illness are already fighting society’s stigma that is associated with having a mental illness. They are not capable of managing the emotional toll it takes to live with the criticisms of their loved ones. Our words carry the power to build or break someone down and, for the person struggling with mental health issues, hurtful words can cut deeply. They can contribute to feelings of hopelessness. The golden rule also applies to communication, “If you cannot say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” While you may think that your constructive criticism is helpful, it may not be your place to offer such advice.
When you feel the desire to be judgmental that is when you should take the opposite approach. Instead, think about how you can offer positive affirmations and words of encouragement as it applies to the conversation at hand and your desire to help. Often, validation of other’s feelings and situations or just listening without words can help more than anything we might say or do.
Being present is the third part of the goal of giving in this effort to impact the stigma of Mental Illness. When spending time with others, we should be mindful of our actions, words and quality of time. Being physically there while your mind is somewhere else is not the same as being emotionally present. People desire to make a connection and without your undivided attention they are unable to connect with you. The person who struggles with mental illness already has trouble connecting emotionally with others. When you are present with them, it gives them an opportunity to connect to you by modeling this behavior.
What are some techniques for being mindful and present? Don’t squeeze in time with the person struggling with mental illness. Make purposeful time in your schedule to be with them, because they will pick up on it if you are waiting to get to your next appointment. Second, focus on the conversation by listening to what they are saying or sitting with them in silence, because just being available is part of making this connection. Lastly, turn your phone, electronics and distractions on silent or off. It is hugely important that they feel like the priority when you are with them, even if you aren’t sure whether or not they appreciate you being there. Doing this last tip with consistency will translate over time and help them understand that you are a support they can trust.
Rachel Rowitt, Ed.D, LMHC, CAP has worked in the field of clinical psychology for 15 years. She is a freelance writer who specializes in educating the community about the effects of mental illness, addiction and how to make effective changes. She has been affiliated with Lifeskills, a residential treatment facility for mental illness and addiction, for over 5 years.
“Gratitude is shown through your actions, not spoken with your words.” A statement my sponsor told me that had a profound impact on the foundation of my recovery. When I first heard people speak of gratitude, especially about being grateful they are addicts, I could not grasp the concept. For so long the only thing in life I longed for was an escape from myself and the pain that I felt, I could not imagine feeling blessed for being the person I felt doomed to be. As time passed I began not only understand but to truly feel in my heart the concepts of recovery; honesty, hope, faith, courage, and so many more. Once I was able to apply the concepts in my life, being grateful took on a whole new meaning to me. What my sponsor told me finally made sense! If I truly am grateful for something I will show it in my actions not just tell others about it. For as long as I could remember my words were used solely for lies and manipulation, so why use them now for gratitude. When instead I could display it so clearly. If I’m truly grateful for my recovery I will not use, if I’m grateful for my home I will keep it clean, If I’m grateful for the people in my life I will respect them. It all seems so simple now. I cannot believe that my life has changed to the degree it has. I was not even able to function in my own mind, let alone society. Today I own my own business and I am a well rounded member of the community with almost 10 years clean and sober. None of this would have been possible without the help I received at lifeskills. Thank you to the staff at lifeskills for not giving up on me when I had completely given up on myself. Glad I now know how to express gratitude without words because there are not enough words to express how truly grateful I am for the life I have today.”
I work shoulder to shoulder with the doctors and nurses that treated me two years ago. They have no idea, they don’t even recognize me. They know me as a friend and colleague. Clients walk in and they express the fear, sadness, and hopelessness of their active addiction. I say, I sat in your seat. I have remained sober for almost two years now. I feel fear, anger, sadness and loneliness; but I also feel happiness, hope, love and belonging. I live a life of imperfection. I call my sponsor and talk to him about these things. I go to a meeting, I read the book, and I work the steps. I go home, get in bed, and close my eyes. I think, I didn’t use today, I didn’t even think of using today. I felt all these feelings and I didn’t have to use today. I am so grateful that I can be a friend, a colleague, and witness to others. I am grateful that I can feel any combination of feelings and remain sober. I am grateful for being a drug addict. My addiction has brought me to a new understanding and acceptance of myself and the world around me. For those of you who were like me, I say you are not alone. You don’t have to do this alone. You don’t have to suffer as I did. It is possible to be grateful for your past and hopeful for the future.