Of all the health conditions that afflict people around the world, mental illness is arguably least understood. And for good reason. Depression or addiction, and the like, cannot be seen by the naked eye. Sure, symptoms can be witnessed. But, unlike the paraplegic in the wheelchair, the crippling effects of mental health conditions are typically invisible to the eye. Again, like other health problems, mental health disorders are treated differently. It’s as if society has been conditioned to treat the mentally ill as somehow separate from everyone else with debilitating illness. To be treated in an according manner.
When you stop to think about it, it hardly makes sense. Especially when you consider the fact that unlike many serious ailments, mental illness can be treated. People can recover with continued maintenance. Just because an epidemic is invisible, does not discredit or lessen our need to encourage treatment.
If you are in addiction recovery, you understand this from first-hand experience. Those of you with mentally afflicted loved one’s can grasp this, too. One only need a glance of the dismal nature of mental illness to understand that nobody would feign or malinger. Yet, for large swaths of society, mental illness is viewed in a separate light. Despite the fact that their own loved ones are more likely to be affected by mental health conditions than most health problems. Thus, perpetuating the stigma of mental health disorders.
Mental Illness Deserves Fair Treatment… And Compassion
The cause and effect of stigma can be dissected seemingly ad infinitum. Or ad nauseam in some respects. Stigma exists, the afflicted spurn treatment even when they know help is available. Enough said on that — for the time being. However, it’s worth pointing out that leaps and bounds have been made just in the last decade regarding addiction and any form of mental illness for that matter. Signs that more people are beginning to understand that mental health disorders are real. That with compassion, rather than exclusion and shaming, people can and do bask in the light of recovery.
Did you know, that more than 300 million people around the globe battle depression as we speak? Did you know that the World Health Organization (WHO) has called depression the greatest source of poor-health around the globe? And, to make matters worse, only a small percentage will ever get treatment or therapy. That is just one form of mental illness, on a pretty long list. An invisible epidemic, most certainly.
Here the United States, we have come a long way, even if the finish line seems ever on the move. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) was signed into law. Preventing insurance companies that provide mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits from imposing less favorable benefit limitations. Compared to what they would for medical/surgical benefits. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), among other things, prevents insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Also strengthening existing health parity laws. Neither pieces of legislation are perfect, but people with mental illness are far better off than before. Some of you reading this would probably agree, as these laws directly impacted you in positive ways. At their core, these laws rest in compassion.
Mental Illness Awareness Week
The good work should not stop there. It can’t stop there. Despite past efforts to increase access to mental health services, such treatments are widely underutilized. A large number of Americans are reluctant to seek help. Obviously, there are a litany of reasons for this; but stigma is at the top of the list. Which is why the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) works tirelessly to educate the public about mental health disorders. Disabusing the public of the notion that such conditions are different than other health problems. Or the notion that treatment rarely works.
This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). NAMI and their partners would like to use this time to educate the public about 5 common mental health conditions. Through education, greater heights of compassion can be reached among the general public. On NAMI’s list: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, Dual Diagnosis, Schizophrenia & Psychosis. All treatable conditions.
Dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders as they’ve come to be called, is an important topic within our purview. At Immersion Recovery Center, we know that people with substance use disorders often struggle with other conditions. Take your pick. Mental illness, seemingly, begets mental illness. Addicts and alcoholics regularly struggle with symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar et. al. If addiction recovery is to become a reality, both the substance use disorder and dual-diagnosis must be treated simultaneously. Failure to do so results in poor outcomes in treating either condition.
If you or a loved one struggles with a substance use disorder, or a co-occurring disorder, please contact us. Treatment and recovery works for anyone willing to take certain Steps. We can guide you along the way.