May is Mental Health Awareness Month

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time for the nation to come together to decrease the social stigmas related to mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) partners with people from around the country to provide support, education and awareness to those affected by mental illness. The goal is to improve the lives of Americans who are impacted by mental health conditions.

Girl in Thinking

Mental Illness is an Epidemic

Mental illness is not something that strikes only a select few. One in five Americans will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their life. The most common mental health conditions include depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.

Adults aren’t the only ones affected by mental health conditions. Children are, too.

Only about half of children with a mental illness receive appropriate mental health services, which can have devastating consequences later in life. Not only are these teens more at risk for substance abuse but also crime. Nearly 70 percent of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental illness, according to NIMA.

Even more disturbing is that 90 percent of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.

Link Between Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

The link between mental illness and substance abuse is irrefutable. Of the 20.2 million American adults with a substance abuse disorder, half suffer from mental illness as well.

No one knows exactly what comes first in this debilitating pattern: the substance abuse or the mental health condition. In some cases, it’s never known.

It’s possible that a person struggling with depression or anxiety started using drugs and alcohol to cope. It’s also possible that long-term drug and alcohol abuse caused changes in the brain that led to feelings of depression or anxiety.

Obtaining a Dual Diagnosis

Only a qualified health professional can give someone a dual diagnosis. The patient will need to meet the criteria for a specific mental health condition and have a substance abuse problem.

When the diagnosis is made, treatment can begin.

Treatment should be complete and cover both the substance abuse and the mental illness. The best programs include counseling, behavioral therapy, 12-step recovery groups, relapse prevention training and continuing care planning.

Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, do your part in sharing this information with someone in need. The social stigmas related to mental illness need to be dropped. People need adequate support and resources, not criticisms and finger pointing.

Though people with a dual diagnosis have unique challenges, it is possible for them to get the help they need to successfully recover from both the substance abuse and their mental illness.

To learn more about getting yourself or a loved one help for a dual diagnosis, call The River Source.