National Mental Health Month 2019: Dealing with a Dual Diagnosis

For 70 years, each May has been observed as National Mental Health Month. This is the largest mental health awareness campaign in the world. In 2018, 30 million people were given important information about good emotional and behavioral health and the resources available to help them achieve just that.

Emotional and behavioral disorders are typically accompanied by other mental and physical health conditions that can seriously impact the person’s quality of life and ability to function. This is precisely why 2019’s theme is so appropriate: “Dueling Diagnoses: Mental Health and Chronic Conditions in Children in Adults”.

What Mental Disorders Co-Occur with Addiction?

Approximately half of all people who meet the criteria for some type of mental illness also struggle with a Substance Use Disorder – illicit drug abuse, alcoholism, or the non-medical misuse of prescription medications.

SUD and mental illness share many environmental and genetic factors, and co-occur surprisingly often:

  • PTSD: Found in 7 out of 10 people with SUD.
  • Depression: 2 out of every 3
  • Bipolar Disorder: 6 in 10
  • Anxiety: 1 out of 3
  • Disordered Eating: 5 times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol
  • Schizophrenia: Up to 1000% more likely to have SUD than the general population

Why Is This Year’s Theme So Important, Especially in Terms of Substance Abuse?

The theme for 2019 highlights some of the best under-utilized strategies that improve mental health and general wellness, such as:

Humor

Laughter has many practical benefits, including:

  • Decreases stress hormone levels
  • Activates the brain’s reward system
  • Triggers the release of endorphins—the body’s natural pain blockers
  • Improved mood
  • Reduced anxiety

Religion and Spirituality

Religious beliefs and spiritual practices such as meditation affect brain activity and body chemistry:

  • Increased levels of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin
  • Decreased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol of noradrenaline
  • Devout believers who read Scripture experience activity in the areas of the brain associated with positive feelings and reward.
  • People who attend religious services have the risk of depression that is 22%
  • Among mental health patients, 80% report that their religion helps them cope with daily life.
  • 65% use religion to cope with symptom severity.
  • 30% say that religion gives them a reason to live.

Support Animals and Pets

Animal companionship has a profound and positive impact on a person’s quality of life:

  • 80% of owners say that their pets make them happy and provide emotional support.
  • 66% believe that having a pet alleviates stress.
  • 55% think that their pets reduce their depression and anxiety.

Recreation and Social Connections

Doing things that bring you joy and finding other people to relate to are both excellent ways to improve your mental health:

  • Having a strong social support system helps you recover from stress.
  • It also improves treatment outcomes.
  • Taking a vacation reduces stress and improves happiness.
  • Teenagers who play sports—which promote social support and boost self-esteem—have a lower risk of depression and suicide.
  • Leisure activities such as board games, dancing, reading, and playing musical instruments reduce the likelihood of a person developing dementia.

A Healthy Work-Life Balance

When work takes over your life, it can seriously jeopardize your physical and mental health.  Unfortunately, almost 40% of Americans work at least 50 hours per week, and nearly 1 in 5 work 60 or more hours.

Even worse, more than half of people responding to a recent survey say that they cope with workplace stress in an unhealthy manner – by drinking or using drugs, for example.  And 3 out of every 4 workers feel that their job or career will be negatively impacted if they take a day off to focus on their mental health.

By healthy work-life balance results in:

  • Better job satisfaction
  • Overall happiness and contentment
  • Decreased stress
  • Fewer symptoms of anxiety or depression

Why These Strategies Are Important

Each of these proven, yet often forgotten, methods can be simply incorporated into anyone’s life. Reducing loneliness and stress is a major part of achieving good mental health. These self-care strategies are also necessary because unfortunately, only 2% of people with comorbid SUD and mental illness receive the proper specialized care for both.

Professional Help for a Dual Diagnosis

“Standard” addiction or mental health treatment isn’t enough.  Most rehabs don’t do enough to address emotional disorders, and the majority of mental health professionals do not have adequate resources to fully address addiction.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, both conditions must be treated simultaneously, and both regarded as the primary disorder in order to realize the best results.  Depending upon the person’s patient history and treatment needs, the most effective strategies should include a combination of:

  • Individual psychological counseling
  • Education
  • Peer group therapy
  • Medication-Assisted Therapy
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Positive coping strategies
  • Communication skills
  • Relapse prevention and response planning
  • Exercise
  • Recreational therapy
  • Support groups
  • Services for the family
  • Long-term aftercare

The best option is when all of the providers of the various services work together as a team.  Comprehensive and integrative dual diagnosis treatment means that all of your recovery needs are addressed by a clinical staff working cooperatively and sharing the same treatment philosophy and goals.

What Does This Mean to YOU?

Mental Health Month is a perfect opportunity to seek the professional help you need for any mental or addictive disorders that keep you from being the best YOU possible.  There is no reason for you to spend one more day struggling with substance abuse, emotional pain, or the dysfunction and chaos that the brain into your life.  Compassionate help is available.

In Southern California, your best, most-trusted resource is Chapman House Treatment Centers. Since 1978, Chapman House has been the top dual diagnosis treatment program in Orange County, providing the services you need to get—and STAY—sober and emotionally healthy.

Chapman House offers treatment plans that are empirically-based, wellness-focused, and tailored to your specific needs as an individual, giving you the tools you need to stay sober, healthy, and balanced.  For more information or to get help NOW, contact Chapman House TODAY.

by Albert Fontenot