Many who struggle with substance abuse also battle with mental health issues as well. This is not limited to mental health disorders, but also the mental and emotional state of a person in their everyday lives. Their ability to cope stressors, negative situations, and other factors that contribute to a person’s ability to live a happy and productive life often plays a role in the development of addiction.
Many discussions about a person’s health leave out the topic of mental and emotional states. This can lead to many not understanding the need for balance and the importance of taking care of it to the same degree as they would their physical health. Often times, mental and emotional health is considered in aspects of “good and bad”. It is painted as someone is either okay or they are not, rather than representing the broad spectrum of experiences we all deal with over the course of time. This binary view of mental and emotional health can make it difficult to broach certain topics due to fear in how it may be perceived.
Why is Discussing Mental Health Difficult?
Mental health issues do not discriminate. Regardless of age, gender, race, culture, or socioeconomic status, mental health issues can run rampant, and stigmas can increase reluctance to discuss it. Young adults can be at a higher risk to struggle with mental health issues due to a variety of reasons. While already dealing with the tidal wave of changes they undergo, other circumstances can increase the risk for mental health struggles:
- Moving to a new city or school
- Experiencing or witnessing trauma
- Difficult financial circumstances
- Less access to resources such as healthcare, education, and work opportunities
- Family history of mental health
- Substance abuse
Although conversations about mental health have grown significantly, there is still a great deal of stigma surrounding mental health issues. Many experience feelings of shame or guilt related to it for numerous reasons. Encountering negative attitudes related to mental health struggles can worsen these feelings. Rather than discussing it openly and honestly, they may choose to withdraw further which can increase feelings of isolation and loneliness. Feelings of being weak or incapable can begin to creep in and worsen their condition. As these experiences compound, many begin to struggle academically, in their relationships with others, and lack support which further strengthens their beliefs about themselves.
How to Start the Conversation
It is never too early to begin the discussion about mental health. Promoting conversations about mindfulness can make the topic easier to explore and help young adults become more aware of their mental and emotional state. While discussing mindfulness is not a form of therapy, it is a way to engage young adults thoughtfully about topics that are important to their overall wellbeing. By exploring mindfulness, young adults are better able to express themselves, communicate their needs to others, and consider activities and behaviors that promote positive mental health.
Taking care of mental health is similar to physical health in some ways. Just as someone would proactively move forward in getting help for an injury, seeking help for mental health issues is important. There are a variety of resources available that are effective in promoting positive mental health and equipping people with the knowledge to recognize warning signs in others. Some tools that are helpful in addressing mental health needs include:
- Counseling: There are numerous counseling resources available depending on an individual’s needs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is especially beneficial for young adults as it helps them recognize the negative thoughts and behaviors that perpetuate poor mental health. Other resources such as group therapy, family therapy, and individual counseling can be incredibly valuable.
- Mental health first-aid: Just as people complete training to respond in crisis situations, such as learning CPR or how to respond to choking, mental health first-aid equips people with the tools necessary to help someone with a panic attack or other distressing situations. Being equipped with the knowledge to help those in mental crisis can help you lead someone to valuable resources.
- Medication: In some cases, medication is a viable solution to treating a mental health condition. The use of medication to treat a mental health condition should be employed in conjunction with other forms of therapy for treatment to be most effective.
- Changing our language: One of the best ways to treat mental health is to change the way we talk about it. Having empathy and showing respect for others can make them more open to discussing their needs and seeking help. Removing words like “crazy” from our vocabulary can change the stigma surrounding mental health issues. For those who struggle with substance abuse especially, changing the language we use to talk about addiction can make it easier to discuss.
Need Help Talking to A Loved One Struggling with Mental Health?
If you are unsure about how to start the conversation still, simply asking someone if they are okay can be enough to begin the process. By removing the veil and creating a safe place to discuss mental health, people are more likely to open up and express their needs, making it easier to accept help and heal. If you need help with your child who is struggling with substance abuse and mental health, give us a call at 800.465.0142 or send us a message.