Author: Jane Forbes

Getting Rid of the Stigma Around Mental Illness

Getting Rid of the Stigma Around Mental Illness

Some believe that the goal of fighting stigma is a lost cause. What does it matter what people think? But the truth is that because of stigma, those who have mental illness issues are sometimes seen as nothing but their condition. They are often:

  • Expected to magically change their behaviors, thoughts, and emotions.
  • Viewed as “flakey” or unpredictable.
  • Held responsible for the things that are out of their control.
  • Isolated by others.

Having a mental health condition is already difficult, and the stigma can sometimes lead to tragic results. More than 41,000 people take their own life every year, according to the CDC. In America, suicide is the the 3rd leading cause of death among people aged 10-24 and also the 10th leading cause of death among adults. So fighting the stigma associated with mental illness could mean staying lives.

To decrease the stigma related to mental illnesses, we need to be open to having more conversations with each other about it. The more open and honest conversations we have about mental illness, the more normalized it will become. Starting the conversation is important. It can go a long way towards getting rid of stigma.

Another advantage to eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness is that those who experience mental health issues will feel better about asking for help. It is absolutely essential that they should be able to. Just like individuals who have addiction issues, it is not helpful if we as a society make it seem like these people are “bad” or that they do not have a real disease. The misconception that people suffering from depression should just “pick themselves up off the ground” or that alcoholics “just need to stop drinking” is a problematic one.

Removing the stigma associated with these conditions will go a long way when it comes to the way they are treated. It’s important that we open up to one another and start to have conversations about mental health in America.

The Connection Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

The Connection Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) states that there is a “definite connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances” and that mental health disorder patients are responsible for the consumption of:

  • 44 percent of cocaine
  • 38 percent of alcohol
  • 40 percent of cigarettes

NBER also reports that people who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder at some point are responsible for the consumption of:

  • 84 percent of cocaine
  • 69 percent of alcohol
  • 68 percent of cigarettes

Clearly, there is a connection between mental illness and substance abuse. This is called a dual diagnosis. Many rehabilitation centers treat for co-occurring disorders, which is what you need if you have both mental health issues and substance use disorder.

The highest occurrence of substance abuse in patients who suffer from mental illness is the use of substances for purposes of self-medication. Patients will abuse drugs and/or alcohol in order to treat their own untreated symptoms. There are so many different examples of this.

Have you ever known someone with social anxiety to drink in order to relax? This person is using alcohol to self-medicate. Have you ever known someone to abuse marijuana because they are depressed? This person is using marijuana to self-medicate. Have you ever known someone to take Adderall, cocaine, or meth to increase their energy and motivation? This person is using stimulants to self-medicate. Have you ever known someone who started taking benzodiazepines for panic or anxiety disorder but then it led to abuse? This person is abusing narcotic medications to self-medicate.

 

Unfortunately, for these patients, not only are they failing to treat these symptoms, but they are actually creating new symptoms. If you are in this situation, you have to get help with your substance abuse and your mental illness. The best thing you can do is seek treatment in a rehabilitation facility that treats dual diagnosis patients.

Remember, when it comes to substance abuse or mental illness, help is available to you if you are only willing to reach out and take it.

Starting the Conversation about Depression

Starting the Conversation about Depression

In growing up, boys are taught to “be a man.” This can be straight up destructive as boys are taught not to cry or to suck it up. Boys will internalize that they should ignore and suppress their feelings. So when they grow up, they believe that feelings are a weakness.

Because of this, a majority of men find depression to be a difficult subject to discuss with others. Women, too, can feel like they shouldn’t ask for help. They think depression is just an abundance of sad emotions. However, if you are diagnosed with clinical depression, it is not an emotional imbalance. It is a disease that needs to be treated.

The first thing that you need to do if you think you may be experiencing the disease of depression is to talk to someone. That is the first step to recovery and getting the treatment you need. You may want to try starting the conversation with a friend or family member who will be able to help you look for treatment. Another thing you can do is to talk to your primary care physician so that he or she may refer you to a therapist or a psychiatrist.“I’ve been getting pretty stressed lately.”

But how do you start that conversation? There are several ways you can get into it. Start by turning to a reliable friend or family member and telling them:

  • “Lately, I’ve been feeling very stressed.”
  • “I think something might be wrong with me. I’m going through a difficult time.”
  • “Have you noticed me feeling down lately?”
  • “I think I may be depressed.”

 

You may have to be prepared to get different responses from different people. That is okay. Some people will understand, and some people will not. The point is that you have done what you can to start the difficult conversation, and that puts you one step closer to seeking treatment.

You should remember that depression is a mental illness. You may need therapy or medication. There may be other alternative methods to treat your depression, too, like herbal remedies and exercise. The most important thing you can do, though, is to start the conversation.