Mental health has been a hot topic over the past few years. As traumatic events keep piling up week after week it’s caused people to stop and say, hey, what is really going on here? We are seeing progress when it comes to how it is discussed in public. What we’re not seeing is progress in how it’s treated and the endless problems that we then have to deal with as a result.
What Do Addiction and Mental Health Have in Common?
Mental health and addiction are very closely related. The inherent stigma that is associated with both prevents millions of people from getting the help they need. In addition, people with mental health disorders are more likely than people without mental health disorders to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder. According to SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 7.9 million adults in the United States had co-occurring disorders. This is why it’s so important for addiction treatment centers to offer integrated programs that treat both.
Side Note: What is a Co-occurring Disorder?
A co-occurring disorder is when a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder coexist. Co-occurring disorders are treatable, but treatment is not usually effective unless both the addiction and mental disorder are addressed.
Are We Starting to See a Shift in the Stigma of Mental Health?
We live in the age of self-love. The era of self improvement. Younger generations are more interested in being the best version of themselves. In fact, a recent study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that college-aged adults are more open to treatment than their older counterparts.
“We’re seeing a shift in the stigma of mental health in emerging adults, but until we can improve access to mental health care, it is unlikely that this generation will receive the support and care for a long-term change in mental well-being,” said Anne Marie Albano, PhD, ABPP, a member of ADAA and a child and adolescent psychologist and a professor at Columbia University. “Changes in our health care system have made it possible for them to get services and establish a new tenor for how future generations view mental health care. We must act to ensure this care is delivered.”
A shift may be taking place but the stigma remains a public health issue. It contributes to high rates of death, incarceration, and health concerns.
Talk is Cheap, We Want Action
Celebrities have been more outspoken about mental health. Non-profits and committees have been formed to raise awareness about the cause. It was a big issue in the presidential campaign last year and continues to be ever present within the presidential administration even now. The way we are starting to talk about this is definitely more progressive but there comes a point where we have to ask ourselves if it’s enough.
Let’s contrast and compare for minute.
You go to a networking event, let’s say. It’s great – you’re meeting lots of people and having some really meaningful conversations. By the time you leave the party, you’re floating on air. There is so much opportunity. You go home and you sleep on it. As you take that first sip of coffee the next morning you think, okay now it’s time to follow up. Time to make a plan. How can you capitalize on the previous nights’ conversations?
The problem isn’t that we aren’t hearing enough about mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. The problem is we’re not seeing any action. No real solutions.
While it’s great that people want to talk more about it, as writer Courtney Hickman noted in a piece for Refinery29 last year, people don’t want to deal with all the “weird, messy stuff” that come along with it. People are praised for sharing about their anxiety or depression. But as soon as it gets real, everyone runs for the hills.
Mental Health Resources That Can Help
Social awareness is only one part of the equation. We need more action, affordable treatment options, better education and training, and regular screenings at routine primary care appointments. We also need legislation to back us up. In the meantime, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, here are a few resources:
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