How Mental Health Awareness Month Contributes to Substance Abuse Prevention

Mental Health Awareness Month occurs every May. It is an opportunity for professionals and members of communities all over the world to educate and destigmatize mental health issues. It is also an opportunity to promote mental wellness by encouraging people who are struggling to get help. Substance use disorders and substance abuse are important subjects when it comes to mental health. Today, we will discuss how this month contributes to substance abuse prevention and how Little Creek reaffirms its commitment to mental wellness and mental health education all throughout the year.

Definition of Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month It was originally held in 1949 by Mental Health America (MHA) and was supposed to be a week-long event, but later expanded to the whole of May. The goals behind this month are:

  • raising awareness around mental health issues
  • reducing stigma around mental illness
  • promoting mental health wellness

During this month, experts spread information with the purpose of educating the public about this topic. Communities also encourage people to get help if they need it. It is also a time when efforts around advocacy for better policies surrounding mental health gain strength and visibility. All throughout May, you may see events, campaigns, and activities about mental health.

The hands of a person holding out a cardboard cutout of the profile of a person with arrows pointing out
Mental Health Awareness Month takes place in May every year.

Connection Between Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Substance use and abuse can lead to poor mental health in individuals who did not qualify for a mental illness diagnosis before they started using illegal substances or abusing legal substances like alcohol or prescription drugs. People who have chronic mental health conditions like Borderline Personality Disorder, ADHD, and bipolar disorder may use substances as a way to self-medicate and regulate their nervous systems. Over time, however, this can lead to further problems in various areas of their lives.

Because over time, substance abuse guarantees mental health issues whether you qualify for a diagnosis or not, it is very important to consider substance use disorders when discussing mental health issues. There is also a lot of stigma and misinformation around substance use disorders. Substance use disorders are treatable, chronic health issues. Even though being committed to recovery does count for something, it is not entirely in the person’s control whether they end up using a substance or not.

In the case of individuals who start using substances but have already qualified for another mental health issue before, dual diagnosis treatment is crucial. If the symptoms of the initial diagnosis are not adequately addressed, the individual is likely to reach for the bottle or their substance of choice when triggered or when their other mental illness flares up. This is why professionals often recommend dual diagnosis treatment centers in Pennsylvania for people who suffer from substance abuse.

A young girl scowls at a whiskey glass in front of her
Substance use can worsen existing mental health issues and even cause new ones.

What Factors Contribute to Substance Use?

There are various factors that contribute to substance use disorders. For instance, there is a genetic component to addiction. If you can remember parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who are or were addicted to a substance, it is probably a good idea to stay away from experimenting with drugs or alcohol. There is also a physiological component when it comes to substance use disorder. Brain chemistry and structure can influence susceptibility to addiction. Changes in neurotransmitter systems involved in pleasure, reward, and impulse control can contribute to substance dependence.

There are also social and environmental factors at play. Your socio-economic background, peer influence, family dynamics, availability of substances, exposure to stress, and trauma all impact the likelihood of whether an individual will develop an addiction. Psychological factors, including co-occurring mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, or trauma-related disorders, can contribute to substance abuse as individuals may use substances as a way to cope with emotional pain or distress.

There are also developmental factors at play. Age of onset of substance use, developmental stages, and life transitions can influence susceptibility to addiction. Early exposure to substances during critical periods of brain development can have long-lasting effects.

Easy access to substances and aggressive marketing strategies by the alcohol and tobacco industries, as well as the proliferation of illicit drug markets, can contribute to substance abuse. The aggressive marketing strategies from some industries sometimes end up encouraging substance abuse, especially among vulnerable populations. Rehab in Scranton PA, is available if you are ready to ask for the help you need.

A traffic sign reading recovery ahead against a blue sky background
Recovery from substance use disorder often includes individual and group therapy, medication-assisted treatment, complementary therapies like art therapy, and dual diagnosis treatment if applicable.

Key Information to Share During Mental Health Awareness Month

One of the pillars of addiction and relapse prevention is granting access to support services and resources. It is not only necessary for mental health centers where people who need help can go. It is also important for the general public to know signs that they may need help and what to do when they do. Asking for help regarding substance abuse and other serious mental health issues can make people feel exposed and vulnerable. This is why it is essential to empower people by giving them as much information as possible. We aim to give our patients at drug rehab in Pennsylvania as much information about their mental health as we can because of this reason.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous

This is a community initiative to provide free, accessible help for people who have a substance use disorder involving alcohol and drugs, respectively. They follow a twelve-step model to overcome addiction. Every new member is assigned a sponsor. This is a person who has been in recovery for a long time. They can call this member at any time during the day when they feel they are about to relapse, and the sponsor is committed to being a source of emotional support and comfort as a way of paying back the support they received back in the day. Members of these organizations also attend meetings regularly. During said meetings, they receive mental health education and listen to other people who are in recovery or struggling.

Individual Therapy

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse you may choose to attend talk therapy. Substance use disorders are generally treated with therapies like CBT or DBT. CBT helps the person struggling identify their triggers, negative behavior, and thought patterns and then correct them. DBT, on the other hand, gives people strategies to deal with emotional regulation and impulse control. As opposed to AA and NA, therapy is generally a paid support service. People in alcohol rehab in Pennsylvania attend individual therapy to address the root cause behind their alcohol abuse.

Group Therapy

People struggling with substance use disorders and other co-occurring disorders tend to benefit from group therapy as well. This is a professionally monitored space where people who have similar mental health concerns get together to discuss what is happening in their lives, their triggers, recent relapses, and strategies they use to stay in the path towards recovery. Group therapy can be very effective for people who struggle with addiction because it can help them feel less isolated and dissipate feelings of shame around their current or past addiction.

Pennsylvania’s Support & Referral Helpline

Residents of Pennsylvania can call this number for free to get a referral as to where to go for further mental and emotional support. This is the number: 855-284-2494. Helplines is important for mental health crises. Even if you do not struggle with these yourself, it is important to have this information at hand because you never know when someone around you may need it.

A woman dressed in a business suit explains something written on a sheet of paper she is holding in her hand to an older man and another woman
Encourage open conversations about addiction during Mental Health Awareness Month.

Encouragement and Advocacy During Mental Health Awareness Month

During May, one thing we can do to promote mental health education is encourage conversations about it. Some professionals in the field, as well as people in recovery from various illnesses, are working on various advocacy efforts.

Encouraging Open Conversations

It is important to be open about addiction. We should avoid speaking in ambiguous, unclear language and call things by their medical name. While some individuals in recovery may prefer to keep their privacy to avoid getting triggered, others find it helpful to tell people their stories. Encouraging individuals like them and professionals to talk about addiction openly can save lives. This is so because their narratives can be more impactful than abstract information. Communities should encourage open conversations about topics like substance abuse during Mental Health Awareness Month so people can share their past struggles.

Challenging Societal Norms and Expectations

It is essential to destigmatize substance use disorders. The face of people with addiction is not always what you would expect. This is why it is important to listen to real people who have recovered from addiction, so all sorts of people feel more empowered to reach out for help.

Empowering Individuals to Make Informed Choices

Instead of thinking that ignorance protects people, it is important to give out information to people who may be more vulnerable to addictions. Provide people with reliable, accurate, and detailed information as to what will happen after they try a certain substance, both in the short term and in the long term.

Long-Term Impact and Sustainability

Since its inception in 1949, we have seen major steps taken in the right direction when it comes to mental health issues and awareness. Of course, this is not just because of Mental Health Awareness Month, but efforts like this that aim to gain visibility can do a lot to contribute to the cause. Every year, all communities come together to spread information and education about mental health at the same time. Over time, this has translated into increasing access to resources, policy advocacy, education and prevention, community engagement, integration into public health initiatives, and global collaboration.

People putting their hands together expressing commitment to a common cause
Communities come together during Mental Health Awareness Month to share knowledge and experiences about the issue.

Integrating Mental Health Awareness into Substance Abuse Prevention Programs

By integrating mental health awareness into substance abuse prevention programs, we can create more effective and sustainable approaches to addressing substance use disorders while promoting overall mental well-being. By recognizing the interconnectedness of mental health and substance use, prevention efforts can be more comprehensive, inclusive, and impactful in supporting individuals to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

Education and Awareness

Prevention programs should provide education about the relationship between mental health and substance use, including the impact of mental health conditions on substance use behaviors and vice versa. Increasing awareness reduces stigma and helps individuals recognize the importance of addressing mental health concerns in substance abuse prevention.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Prevention programs should include information about the availability of integrated treatment options for individuals with co-occurring disorders. This may involve collaboration between substance abuse treatment providers and mental health professionals to provide comprehensive care addressing both issues simultaneously.

Skills Building and Coping Strategies

Prevention efforts should focus on teaching coping skills and resilience-building techniques to help individuals manage stress, emotions, and mental health symptoms without turning to substances. This may include stress management techniques, mindfulness practices, and healthy coping strategies.

Peer Support and Community Resources

Incorporating peer support networks and community resources into prevention programs can provide individuals with ongoing support and connection to others who understand their experiences. Peer support can help reduce feelings of isolation and provide encouragement for individuals seeking help for mental health and substance use concerns.

Recovery is within the Reach

Mental Health Awareness Month contributes to the promotion of mental health education and mental wellness because it directs the efforts of professionals, advocates, and communities. Little Creek Recovery at Lake Ariel, PA, is committed to destigmatizing addiction and mental health issues. Our certified professionals are committed to supporting your recovery journey and helping you achieve your recovery goals.4o

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