Empathy and empowerment. These are things we preach about daily but still fatally struggle with, especially when considering those who suffer from mental illness and addiction. You don’t even have to look far to see that toxic struggle. Case in point: the box office is currently celebrating the immense success of Joker, a movie dedicated to a man failed by society and its lack of empathy. World Mental Health Day shines a spotlight on these with unity as its bullhorn.
What Is Dual Diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis innately sounds strange. But that’s not due to the average person realizing a lack of clinical knowledge. It’s the result of a massive, toxic stigma causing an incredibly common circumstance to be uncommonly addressed — outside of a therapist’s office, that is. Dual diagnosis is actually a familiar phenomenon for many families. It’s a term used to describe someone who suffers from both addiction and a mental illness simultaneously.
Addiction and mental illness often coexist. Either one can develop first and fuel the other. Someone who suffers from a mental illness may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope and self-medicate. Likewise, someone who abuses certain substances may develop mental health conditions because of the effects of those substances. At some point, both the addiction and the mental illness are so intertwined that they both fuel each other and don’t even need to give way to take turns digging a person into deeper despair.
In order for treatment to be successful, both issues need to be addressed. Treating one will not cause the other to dissipate. Leaving one untreated while attempting to treat the other is like scooping water out of a flooded boat while the unsealed hole adds more.
New Start Recovery’s addiction therapists have specific training and experience to treat concurrent mental illnesses. They see dual diagnosis every day and are well-versed in its nuances, including the suffocating stigma that likely prevented a person from asking for help to begin with.
Nearly 8 million Americans are living with co-occurring mental health conditions and substance use disorder.
World Mental Health Day: Why We’re Celebrating
“World Mental Health Day celebrates awareness for the global community in an empathetic way, with a unifying voice, helping those feel hopeful by empowering them to take action and create lasting change.”
Mental health should be addressed every day. Until it’s a topic commonly and empathetically addressed throughout the world, people will suffer. And those people are not abstract. They’re our friends, parents, partners, children, siblings, and coworkers. Us.
That said, while the stigma exists, there are benefits to globally designating a specific day to celebrate mental health awareness.
World Mental Health Day gives a platform for people to share their stories, air their grievances, and illuminate their support for a normally taboo subject alongside millions of others. The trauma, shame, and frustration that someone who suffers from a mental health condition feels often prevents them from wanting to speak out. The feeling of unity forged by hundreds, thousands, or millions of other people sharing their stories and struggles lends the comfort and hope those very people need to feel empowered to speak.
This Year’s Theme: Suicide Prevention
The WFMH has made suicide prevention the main theme of World Mental Health Day 2019. The aim is to attract the attention of governments who can give suicide prevention priority in public health agendas throughout the world.
Suicide is a pressing issue within the addiction and recovery community. Suicide and substances unfortunately both appeal to people who struggle daily to push back the torment in their own minds. These chronic sufferers seek peace and quiet. They seek relief. Drugs, alcohol, and suicide all provide that relief. We need to be able to openly speak about mental health and addiction. Suicide is preventable. Talking doesn’t automatically stop someone from committing suicide, but it does give way to more acceptance, access to resources, and knowledge of risk factors, all of which can help someone before it’s too late.
What Can You Do?
Most mental health conditions require specific attention from licensed professionals. However, there are a few things you can easily do to help relieve stress, anxiety, or depressive thoughts in addition to the appropriate therapy. Celebrate World Mental Health Day by tweeting in solidarity, advocating for suicide prevention, and working on a positive mental health activity.