The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that 50 percent of individuals with severe mental health disorders are affected by substance use. In addition, 37 percent of alcohol users and 53% of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
Double trouble but there is hope because researchers are looking into the connection between these disorders and Physicians are developing treatments integrating the recovery program and treatment plans. Also, researchers are looking into the relationship between early substance use and the increases in likely future problems with alcohol and drugs. I believe the more we know about something, the better we are able to find solutions. I started on the path of substance abuse as a young teen. I have continued to work through this along with the mental illness conditions I am experiencing.
We all know the feeling…that feeling when you just can’t muster up the strength to get out of bed. Maybe it’s the work-week and your alarm just won’t shut up. Maybe it’s the weekend and you can’t find a good reason to plant your feet on the floor and make something out of the day. Whatever the situation, we can all relate. And for someone with depression, this can be especially difficult.
We always prepare a first aid kit for our physical injuries when we go on a camping trip. What if those of us who have experienced symptoms of mental illness had a way to prepare a first aid kit or safety plan to meet those needs?
There are many different types of safety plans but one for my depression and anxiety was the one I never imagined I would need and I wish was explained to me. The plan I probably put the most thought into was the birth plan for my first child. Specifics such as what music to have on, what to have as a focus object, not to have drugs if possible were thought about and discussed with both my husband and my doctor. I will say, the plan was mostly followed although, I did take a little something for the pain.
The other type of plan that comes to mind is a fire safety plan for your house and family members. What do you do if the fire comes near you? What are the alternate ways out of the house: windows, doors? And where to meet up once you are out?
Shortly after “coming out of the closet” about my mental illness, I was contacted by another male friend. “You’ve been there, one way or another. I appreciate your courage,” he said. I told him we are all in this together. He responded, “Yeah, our family motto is you admit no faults, hide your feelings and emotions, don’t talk about problems. Makes you weak… Have spent some time on the edge: bottle in one hand and a gun in the other.” As we continued the conversation, he told me he was getting help and on medication. I told him to stay in touch with me. He was very appreciative.
A few months later, my friend contacted me, “I am struggling today.” I told him he was not alone, he is uniquely wonderful and deeply loved by his family. He appreciated my words but was still struggling. His “inner demons” were winning that day, but he wasn’t giving in. By the end of our conversation, he felt better. I will always remember the “you are a life saver” message I got from my friend a few days later. “This time I was there to help,” I thought.
The first time suicide impacted me directly was when a male friend committed suicide. He was a boy I saw cracking jokes and doing pranks, and who I watched grow into a wonderful, dedicated man. I can still see myself at work, wearing my green suit, when I learned he had committed suicide. A twin bomb of shock and guilt exploded in my heart. All I could think was, “If I had only known.” I was shaken for days. In fact, I wasn’t able to go to the funeral, but I wish I had. I wrote his family a long, heartfelt letter saying everything I wish I could have said to him. No one can ever fill the special place he had in my life.