It’s National Recovery Month. Will you help fight the stigma of mental illness and substance use disorders?

September is National Recovery Month, and it’s a good time to talk about mental illness and substance use disorders so we can help fight the stigma associated with them. For people to seek treatment, they need to feel comfortable talking about mental health and substance use disorders. But stigma and a fear of being judged make that difficult.

Recovery is an ongoing process that includes a person’s entire mental well-being, as well as how well they can function on a daily basis. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not guaranteed that someone will stay in recovery once they’ve achieved it. It is a life-long process that depends on many things, including robust recovery support systems. People who have a good support system are better able to maintain recovery.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has identified four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:

  • Health: Making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being.
  • Home: Having a stable and safe place to live.
  • Purpose: Conducting meaningful daily activities, such as working at a job, volunteering at a school, taking care of family members, or doing creative work, and then having the independence, income, and resources to participate in society.
  • Community: Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love and hope.

Because of stigma, each of these supports becomes more difficult to achieve. To fight that stigma, we all have to be willing to talk about mental health and substance use disorders without judgment. If people don’t feel comfortable asking for help, they won’t get it until they are in crisis. And then treatment is even more difficult.

It can be difficult to know if someone is struggling with a mental illness or substance use disorder. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause stress and affect a person’s ability to function on a daily basis. 1 in 5 adults, 20 percent, will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime. Some of the signs of a mental illness include confused thinking or a reduced ability to concentrate, excessive fears or worries, extreme mood changes, delusions, paranoia or hallucinations, the inability to cope with daily problems, major changes in eating habits and extreme feelings of guilt, among others.

Other symptoms for substance use disorders include secretive or suspicious behaviors, often getting into trouble, a drop in attendance at work or school, a sudden change in friends or hobbies, and some physical changes like sudden weight loss or gain and a deterioration of a person’s physical appearance.

If you suspect someone you know is struggling, have a frank, honest discussion with them about your concerns. Offer encouragement to see a doctor and support them in their treatment. Learn about their issues so you can understand what they are experiencing. Be open if and when they ask for help and encourage them to join a support group and be social. If you or someone you know is possibly suicidal, call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Resources also are available by calling the Idaho Careline at 2-1-1.

Support Recovery! You can support recovery publicly by attending a Recovery Rally from 2-4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse. We hope to see you there!

Other resources:

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