Relentless Nature was created to highlight the best in us. There are many of you out there who are working their ass off every day, to create the life that you want instead of going through the motions. It is not about how much you currently possess, or how large your muscles are, we emphasize the desire to grind as well as the respect for others who are working along the same journey, which is success and most importantly happiness!
Believe it or not, you are part of a small group of people. Most of the population does not try to reach their true potential. Once they've hit a certain point, there is a plateau in their life.
You want more...
Warning more is not about being selfish or greedy but trying to reach what you want. Mediocre seems to be the new norm with less and less trying challenge that, pushing the "limits" and being RELENTLESS until your goals are achieve.
⚫Believe we can constantly improve our current reality with brains and effort.We know it won't be easy and it shouldn't be. Knowing that on the other end of the marathon is the finishline you deserve.
⚫Respect others on their journey.We all started somewhere, so no matter what anyone around us is doing,(unless morally wrong) they deserve our respect or atleast peace from judgement.
⚫Refuse to back down when odds are against us because there will be times we know that things will not work out. Failing is a frequent part of growth, it is just how we take the loss. Do we learn or do we quit? Learning is winning.
The Relentless Pursuit Of Peace of Mind- We Can.(MentalHealth)
Many know the true battle on the inside. Living with mental illness is a lifetime of internal conflict. The war between who we want to be and what we are constantly rages. Fleeting feelings of happiness overwhelmed by ghost emotions of violence, hatred and hopelessness. Conquering an invisible force that is a daily test of your faith in yourself and others. Forcing that smile to try to recreate the happiness you so long for. That aching loneliness even in a group of your closest "friends". When all hope seems lost...
we keep fighting.
We do not allow the evil to consume us, no matter how temping it may be to embrace it.
As much as you want to bury your face in the pillow and sleep forever.
As much as you want to let that anger out so it no longer is your burden.
As much as you NEED to release the monster. You choose to live on the side of hope above hopelessness.
You choose love over the hatred. CHOOSE TO LIVE!
What you once thought was your weakness, you can truly realize how much of a strength it is.
I will use the anger to my benefit, I will take the depression and I will smile through it and give love to those even if I don't feel it in the moment.
Our emotions are just like rooms, you cannot stay in it forever. The pain is not forever, your strength is.
At Relentless Nature, Mental Health is in the forefront of our mission. Many of the Relentless Nature family and extended family has experienced troubles with their own mental health. The world on the outside seems so uncaring and unaware.
If you cant see the illness, how is it real?
Others believe we have a complete control over these emotions.
But now it is time to be RELENTLESS on changing how others view us and mental illness
PART1: GENERAL INFO
M E N T A L H E A L T H A W A R E N E S S
Over 44 million American adults have a mental health condition. Since the release of the first State of Mental Health in America report (2015), there has only been a slight decrease in the number of adults who have a mental health condition (from 18.19% to 18.07%)
Rate of youth experiencing a mental health condition continues to rise. The rate of youth with Major Depressive Episode (MDE) increased from 11.93% to 12.63%. There was only a 1.5% decrease in the rate of youth with MDE who did receive treatment. Data showed that 62% of youth with MDE received no treatment.
More Americans are insured and accessing care. We can continue to see the effects of healthcare reform on the rate of Adults who are uninsured. This year there was a 2.5% reduction in the number of Adults with a mental health condition who were uninsured.
...But many Americans experiencing a mental health condition still report having an unmet need. 1 in 5, or 9 million adults reported having an unmet need.
Mental health workforce shortage remains.Many states saw some improvement in their individual to mental health provider ratio. But in states with the lowest workforce there was almost 4 times the number individuals to only 1 mental health provider.
Consequences Of Lack Of Treatment
Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.15
Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.16
Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions.17 Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.18
Over one-third (37%) of students with a mental health condition age 14–21 and older who are served by special education drop out—the highest dropout rate of any disability group.19
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.,20 the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–1421 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.22
More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.23
Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a leader in suicide prevention and mental health crisis care. Since its inception, the Lifeline has engaged in a variety of initiatives to improve crisis services and advance suicide prevention for all, including innovative public messaging, best practices in mental health, and groundbreaking partnerships.
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Vibrant Emotional Health launched the Lifeline on January 1, 2005. Vibrant Emotional Health, the administrator of the grant, works with its partners, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), National Council for Behavioral Health, and others, to manage the project, along with Living Works, Inc., an internationally respected organization specializing in suicide intervention skills training.
Are You Feeling Suicidal?
How to Deal with Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings and Overcome the Pain
You're not alone; many of us have had suicidal thoughts at some point in our lives. Feeling suicidal is not a character defect, and it doesn't mean that you are crazy, or weak, or flawed. It only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. This pain seems overwhelming and permanent at the moment. But with time and support, you can overcome your problems and the pain and suicidal feelings will pass.
I'm having suicidal thoughts, what do I need to know?
No matter how much pain you’re experiencing right now, you’re not alone. Some of the finest, most admired, needed, and talented people have been where you are now. Many of us have thought about taking our own lives when we’ve felt overwhelmed by depression and devoid of all hope. But the pain of depression can be treated and hope can be renewed. No matter what your situation, there are people who need you, places where you can make a difference, and experiences that can remind you that life is worth living. It takes real courage to face death and step back from the brink. You can use that courage to face life, to learn coping skills for overcoming depression, and for finding the strength to keep going. Remember:
Your emotions are not fixed - they are constantly changing. How you feel today may not be the same as how you felt yesterday or how you'll feel tomorrow or next week.
Your absence would create grief and anguish in the lives of friends and loved ones.
There are many things you can still accomplish in your life.
There are sights, sounds, and experiences in life that have the ability to delight and lift you - and that you would miss.
Your ability to experience pleasurable emotions is equal to your ability to experience distressing emotions.
Why do I feel suicidal?
Many kinds of emotional pain can lead to thoughts of suicide. The reasons for this pain are unique to each one of us, and the ability to cope with the pain differs from person to person. We are all different. There are, however, some common causes that may lead us to experience suicidal thoughts and feelings.
Why suicide can seem like the only option
If you are unable to think of solutions other than suicide, it is not that other solutions don’t exist, but rather that you are currently unable to see them. The intense emotional pain that you’re experiencing right now can distort your thinking so it becomes harder to see possible solutions to problems, or to connect with those who can offer support. Therapists, counselors, friends or loved ones can help you to see solutions that otherwise may not be apparent to you. Give them a chance to help.
A suicidal crisis is almost always temporary
Although it might seem as if your pain and unhappiness will never end, it is important to realize that crises are usually temporary. Solutions are often found, feelings change, unexpected positive events occur. Remember: suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Give yourself the time necessary for things to change and the pain to subside.
Even problems that seem hopeless have solutions
Mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are all treatable with changes in lifestyle, therapy, and medication. Most people who seek help can improve their situation and recover. Even if you have received treatment for a disorder before, or if you’ve already made attempts to solve your problems, know that it’s often necessary to try different approaches before finding the right solution or combination of solutions. When medication is prescribed, for example, finding the right dosage often requires an ongoing process of adjustment. Don’t give up before you’ve found the solution that works for you. Virtually all problems can be treated or resolved.
Take these immediate actions
Step #1: Promise not to do anything right now
Even though you’re in a lot of pain right now, give yourself some distance between thoughts and action. Make a promise to yourself: "I will wait 24 hours and won't do anything drastic during that time." Or, wait a week.
Thoughts and actions are two different things—your suicidal thoughts do not have to become a reality. There’s is no deadline, no one's pushing you to act on these thoughts immediately. Wait. Wait and put some distance between your suicidal thoughts and suicidal action.
Step #2: Avoid drugs and alcohol
Suicidal thoughts can become even stronger if you have taken drugs or alcohol. It is important to not use nonprescription drugs or alcohol when you feel hopeless or are thinking about suicide.
Step #3: Make your home safe
Remove things you could use to hurt yourself, such as pills, knives, razors, or firearms. If you are unable to do so, go to a place where you can feel safe. If you are thinking of taking an overdose, give your medicines to someone who can return them to you one day at a time as you need them.
Step #4: Don’t keep these suicidal feelings to yourself
Many of us have found that the first step to coping with suicidal thoughts and feelings is to share them with someone we trust. It may be a family member, friend, therapist, member of the clergy, teacher, family doctor, coach, or an experienced counselor at the end of a helpline. Find someone you trust and let them know how bad things are. Don’t let fear, shame, or embarrassment prevent you from seeking help. And if the first person you reach out to doesn’t seem to understand, try someone else. Just talking about how you got to this point in your life can release a lot of the pressure that’s building up and help you find a way to cope.
Step #5: Take hope - people DO get through this
Even people who feel as badly as you are feeling now manage to survive these feelings. Take hope in this. There is a very good chance that you are going to live through these feelings, no matter how much self-loathing, hopelessness, or isolation you are currently experiencing. Just give yourself the time needed and don’t try to go it alone.
Reaching out for help
Even if it doesn't feel like it right now, there are many people who want to support you during this difficult time. Reach out to someone. Do it now. If you promised yourself 24 hours or a week in step #1 above, use that time to tell someone what's going on with you. Talk to someone who won't try to argue about how you feel, judge you, or tell you to just "snap out of it." Find someone who will simply listen and be there for you.
It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as it’s someone you trust and who is likely to listen with compassion and acceptance.
How to talk to someone about your suicidal thoughts
Even when you’ve decided who you can trust to talk to, admitting your suicidal thoughts to another person can be difficult.
Tell the person exactly what you are telling yourself. If you have a suicide plan, explain it to them.
Phrases such as, ‘I can't take it anymore’ or ‘I’m done’ are vague and do not illustrate how serious things really are. Tell the person you trust that you are thinking about suicide.
If it is too difficult for you to talk about, try writing it down and handing a note to the person you trust. Or send them an email or text and sit with them while they read it.
What if you don't feel understood?
If the first person you reached out to doesn’t seem to understand, tell someone else or call a suicide crisis helpline. Don’t let a bad experience stop you from finding someone who can help.
If you don’t know who to turn to:
In the U.S. - Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).
In the UK and Ireland - Call the Samaritans at 116 123
In Australia - Call Lifeline Australia at 13 11 14
In other countries - Visit IASP or Suicide.orgto find a helpline in your country.
How to cope with suicidal thoughts
Remember that while it may seem as if these suicidal thoughts and feelings will never end, this is never a permanent condition. You WILL feel better again. In the meantime, there are some ways to help cope with your suicidal thoughts and feelings.
If You Have Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings
Things to do:
Talk with someone every day, preferably face to face. Though you feel like withdrawing, ask trusted friends and acquaintances to spend time with you. Or continue to call a crisis helpline and talk about your feelings.
Make a safety plan. Develop a set of steps that you can follow during a suicidal crisis. It should include contact numbers for your doctor or therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.
Make a written schedule for yourself every day and stick to it, no matter what. Keep a regular routine as much as possible, even when your feelings seem out of control.
Get out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes a day.
Exercise as vigorously as is safe for you. To get the most benefit, aim for 30 minutes of exercise per day. But you can start small. Three 10-minute bursts of activity can have a positive effect on mood.
Make time for things that bring you joy. Even if very few things bring you pleasure at the moment, force yourself to do the things you used to enjoy.
Remember your personal goals. You may have always wanted to travel to a particular place, read a specific book, own a pet, move to another place, learn a new hobby, volunteer, go back to school, or start a family. Write your personal goals down.
Things to avoid:
Being alone. Solitude can make suicidal thoughts even worse. Visit a friend, or family member, or pick up the phone and call a crisis helpline.
Alcohol and drugs. Drugs and alcohol can increase depression, hamper your problem-solving ability, and can make you act impulsively.
Doing things that make you feel worse.Listening to sad music, looking at certain photographs, reading old letters, or visiting a loved one’s grave can all increase negative feelings.
Thinking about suicide and other negative thoughts. Try not to become preoccupied with suicidal thoughts as this can make them even stronger. Don’t think and rethink negative thoughts. Find a distraction. Giving yourself a break from suicidal thoughts can help, even if it’s for a short time.
Recovering from suicidal thoughts
Even if your suicidal thoughts and feelings have subsided, get help for yourself. Experiencing that sort of emotional pain is itself a traumatizing experience. Finding a support group or therapist can be very helpful in decreasing the chances that you will feel suicidal again in the future. You can get help and referrals from your doctor or from the organizations listed in our Recommended reading section.
5 steps to recovery
Identify triggers or situations that lead to feelings of despair or generate suicidal thoughts, such as an anniversary of a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships. Find ways to avoid these places, people, or situations.
Take care of yourself. Eat right, don’t skip meals, and get plenty of sleep. Exercise is also key: it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being.
Build your support network. Surround yourself with positive influences and people who make you feel good about yourself. The more you’re invested in other people and your community, the more you have to lose—which will help you stay positive and on the recovery track.
Develop new activities and interests. Find new hobbies, volunteer activities, or work that gives you a sense of meaning and purpose. When you’re doing things you find fulfilling, you’ll feel better about yourself and feelings of despair are less likely to return.
Learn to deal with stress in a healthy way.Find healthy ways to keep your stress levels in check, including exercising, meditating, using sensory strategies to relax, practicing simple breathing exercises, and challenging self-defeating thoughts.
Signs and Symptoms
The behaviors listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide.
Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
Talking about great guilt or shame
Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
Talking about being a burden to others
Using alcohol or drugs more often
Acting anxious or agitated
Withdrawing from family and friends
Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
Talking or thinking about death often
Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
Giving away important possessions
Saying goodbye to friends and family
Putting affairs in order, making a will
Multiple types of psychosocial interventions have been found to be beneficial for individuals who have attempted suicide. These types of interventions may prevent someone from making another attempt. Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," is one type of psychosocial intervention and can effectively reduce suicide risk.
One type of psychotherapy is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help people learn new ways of dealing with stressful experiences through training. CBT helps individuals recognize their own thought patterns and consider alternative actions when thoughts of suicide arise.
Another type of psychotherapy, called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), has been shown to reduce the rate of suicide among people with borderline personality disorder, a serious mental illness characterized by unstable moods, relationships, self-image, and behavior. A therapist trained in DBT helps a person recognize when his or her feelings or actions are disruptive or unhealthy, and teaches the skills needed to deal better with upsetting situations.
Some individuals at risk for suicide might benefit from medication. Doctors and patients can work together to find the best medication or medication combination, as well as the right dose.
Clozapine, is an antipsychotic medication used primarily to treat individuals with schizophrenia. However, it is the only medication with a specific U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indication for reducing the risk of recurrent suicidal behavior in patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder who are at risk for ongoing suicidal behavior. Because many individuals at risk for suicide often have psychiatric and substance use problems, individuals might benefit from medication along with psychosocial intervention.
If you are prescribed a medication, be sure you:
Talk with your doctor or a pharmacist to make sure you understand the risks and benefits of the medications you're taking.
Do not stop taking a medication without talking to your doctor first. Suddenly stopping a medication may lead to "rebound" or worsening of symptoms. Other uncomfortable or potentially dangerous withdrawal effects also are possible.
Report any concerns about side effects to your doctor right away. You may need a change in the dose or a different medication.
Other medications have been used to treat suicidal thoughts and behaviors but more research is needed to show the benefit for these options. For basic information about these medications, you can visit the NIMH Mental Health Medications webpage. For the most up-to-date information on medications, side effects, and warnings, visit the FDA website.
Introduction to Substance Abuse
Substance abuse costs individuals substantially, and it costs the nation as a whole.
Substance abuse is a pandemic in the United States. From the abuse of seemingly innocent substances such as marijuana and alcohol to the abuse of street drugs like cocaine and heroin, substance abuse costs individuals substantially, and it costs the nation as a whole. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
Illicit drug use costs the United States approximately $181 billion annually.
Excessive alcohol use costs the country approximately $235 billion annually.
It’s not surprising that substance abuse comes with such a high price tag when you consider all the health, legal, criminal, and personal issues that often come in its wake.
In 2012, nearly 24 million Americans, age 12 and older, had abused an illicit drug, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Marijuana is still the most frequently abused drug, with more than 20 million Americans citing use of marijuana within the prior 30 days, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), and more than 8 million people admitting to using marijuana on a near daily basis.
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Prescription Drug Abuse
While various street drugs are known to be dangerous, such as heroin and crystal meth, prescription drugs are often viewed in a more favorable light, due to their status as being doctor-prescribed. Though many believe these drugs are “safer” as a result, they can be as addictive as heroin.
Today, prescription drugs are abused more often than illicit drugs are, illustrating the prevalence of this issue.
In 2010, opiate painkillers, such as morphine, OxyContin, and Vicodin, were tied to almost 60% of drug overdose deaths.
Short- and Long-Term Effects of Substance Abuse
Drugs work by stimulating various parts of the human body, including certain areas of the brain. The many different types and classifications of drugs produce a variety of short-term effects, but the most common ones include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, dizziness, tremors, mood changes and paranoia. In high dosages, the risk for more dangerous effects increases, and the potential for heart attack, stroke, respiratory failure and coma increase.
In the long-term, substance abuse may lead to mental and physical effects that will require treatment to resolve. These effects can include:
Video: What Is Substance Abuse?
Dependence, Abuse and Addiction
While drug use often begins as a way to seek recreation, the addictive properties of drugs quickly turn a perceived outlet for fun into a constant need to remain high. This compulsion is uncontrollable and may interfere with a person’s everyday life.
While substance abuse comes with a great many side effects, ranging from mild physical side effects like nausea and dehydration to work-related consequences such as reduced productivity, one of the greatest risks of substance abuse is dependence.
What might begin as the occasional bump of cocaine or hit on the bong can quickly spiral into dependence and eventually full-blown addiction. Once addiction takes hold, comprehensive treatment is needed.
Even when the effects of drugs are damaging to a person’s body and relationships with friends, family members and coworkers, the constant need for a substance often overcomes any rational thinking.
Per NIDA, addiction is a persisting disease that requires ongoing management. Individuals are never “cured” of addictions; instead, they learn how to manage their disease so they can lead healthy, balanced lives.
Most people who struggle with drug addiction face the issue of tolerance buildup. After continuous use, the body becomes less and less stimulated by the drug. This may cause a person to begin using higher dosages to obtain the same high. Although the person may not feel as high, the damaging properties of the drug cause the same amount of harm. If the body receives a level of drugs that it cannot tolerate, this leads to an overdose. While some overdoses occur after continuous use, they can also happen after one single use of a drug.
Fever or sweating.
Change in skin color.
If any of these signs are present, or if you believe a person might be having an overdose, seek life-saving medical attention immediately.
Getting Clean and Sober
The decision to seek out a clean and sober lifestyle is one of the most important steps in the recovery process. Since addiction is such a widespread condition, anyone seeking help will find numerous options for treatment.
These treatment options are designed to help walk a person through the steps to sobriety, which can make the transition easier. By calling 1-877-293-1485Who Answers? or filling out the quick contact form, we can help guide you toward the right option for your situation.
How an Intervention Works
Deciding to stop using drugs may be a difficult decision for a person to make. Even if drugs are causing a disruption in a person’s life, the compulsion to abuse substances habitually often overcomes any desire to quit. In some cases, the family and friends of an addict may consider holding an intervention.
During an intervention, each person needs to plead with the person to consider rehabilitation. While it is important to confront the person with the harsh realities of his or her drug use—including the negative effects the drugs have on the person’s relationships with loved ones—this confrontation should be one tackled with compassion and an understanding of the struggle of drug addiction.
Methods for Drug Withdrawal and Detoxing from Drugs
Before an addict can begin a rehabilitation program, full withdrawal or detoxification may be necessary. During this process, the body adjusts to its drug-free state and rids itself of the remainder of the drug. Some detox programs use controlled amounts of medicinal drugs to help a person through this process.
Rehab and Addiction Treatment Options
A doctor or addiction specialist or counselorcan help each individual find the right rehabilitation or treatment option. The setting is determined by individual needs, so some people may benefit from an inpatient rehab, while others may thrive by using an outpatient program.
At the core, the goal is to help a former addict assimilate into a drug-free life as easily as possible. The most commonly used treatment options for addiction include:
Psychotherapy, which helps patients learn how to resist and redirect compulsions.
If you want to know where to look for help for someone with a drug problem, call 1-877-293-1485Who Answers? or fill out the easy contact form to learn about your options.
Aftercare and Relapse Prevention
Relapse is best prevented by structured cognitive-behavioral therapy. By learning about drug abuse prevention and avoid situations that may cause compulsions or cravings, a person is more likely to retain control and make the decision to not seek out or use drugs. Utilizing therapy or support groups as aftercare options can reduce the potential for relapse.
Support Groups and Recovery Tools
The guidance of an experienced peer can be invaluably helpful to someone going through the initial steps of sobriety.
At times, an addiction can seem like a personal struggle that no one around you understands. For this reason, drug addiction support groups can help recovering addicts find comfort in their peers.
Depending on the person’s location, there may be a single support group for anyone recovering from an addiction, or there may be groups tailored to those recovering from a specific drug. In addition to providing support as a group, these organizations often pair up new members with existing members who have maintained sobriety for an extended amount of time. The guidance of an experienced peer can be invaluably helpful to someone going through the initial steps of sobriety
Finding the perfect treatment is only one phone call away!
Shaming the Sick: Addiction and Stigma
Table of Contents
The concept of stigma describes the powerful, negative perceptions commonly associated with substance abuse and addiction. Stigma has the potential to negatively affect a person’s self-esteem, damage relationships with loved ones, and prevent those suffering from addiction from accessing treatment.
Stigma is a public health issue — it contributes to high rates of death, incarceration, and mental health concerns among dependent populations.
Stigma is defined as a set of negative beliefs that a group or society holds about a topic or group of people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stigma is a major cause of discrimination and exclusion and it contributes to the abuse of human rights. When a person experiences stigma they are seen as less than because of their real or perceived health status. Stigma is rarely based on facts but rather on assumptions, preconceptions, and generalizations; therefore, its negative impact can be prevented or lessened through education. Stigma results in prejudice, avoidance, rejection, and discrimination against people who have a socially undesirable trait or engage in culturally marginalized behaviors, such as drug use (Link, 2001).
Family, friends and the general public can carry negative feelings about drug use or behavior. They may even use derogatory terms such as “junkie,” “alcoholic,” or “crackhead.” These thoughts, feelings, and labels can create and perpetuate stigma.
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How Prevalent is Addiction Stigma?
We live in a society where millions of Americans are dependent on drugs or alcohol and only a small percentage receive treatment at a facility. In fact, the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 21.5 Americans age 12 and older had a substance use disorder in the previous year; however, sadly only 2.5 million received the specialized treatment they needed.
Stigma affects all of us – and nearly everyone has felt stigmatized or has stigmatized others at some point in their lives. In a study done by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the general public was more likely to have negative attitudes towards those dealing with drug addiction than those who were dealing with mental illness. Additionally, researchers found that people don’t generally support insurance, housing, and employment policies that benefited people who were dependent on drugs (JHU, 2014).
A Picture of Stigma
Becoming dependent on drugs can happen to anyone. It’s important to keep in mind that we can all do a better job of decreasing stigma around drug use.
Recovery Brands conducted a survey of people who use drugs, and respondents provided written reflections about what they wished people or society at large understood about addiction. Their responses help illustrate the importance of remaining kind, compassionate, and human. The image below includes quotes from some of the respondents.
How Stigma Hurts
Stigma can negatively impact a number of areas, including:
Willingness to attend treatment and access to healthcare.
Self-esteem and mental health.
Impact on Treatment
Unfortunately, people who experience stigma regarding their drug use are less likely to seek treatment, and this results in economic, social, and medical costs. In the United States, costs associated with untreated addiction (including those related to healthcare, criminal justice, and lost productivity) amounted to a whopping $510 billion (Harwood, 2000).
Perceived stigma in hospitals or doctors’ offices can discourage people from accessing needed healthcare services. Having a trusted primary care doctor is associated with maintaining well-being and a good quality of life. However, studies have found that some healthcare providers feel uncomfortable when working with people who are dependent on drugs. In a study of nurses’ attitudes towards patients, the majority of nurses held negative views about people who used drugs (Howard & Chung, 2000). In another study of nurses in the UK, most of the nurses had a stigma against injection drug users (Monks, Topping, & Newell, 2013). When health providers carry a stigma towards people with drug dependencies, it can affect their willingness to assess or treat the patient for substance abuse, how they approach him or her, and it may prevent addicted individuals from seeking healthcare altogether.
In order to better support people with substance use disorders, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes benefits for addiction treatment. People who have Medicaid or purchase plans through the health exchanges are eligible for treatment services, including psychotherapy and counseling. Plans vary, and some have limits on the number of days or visits covered, how much of the deductible and copayment will be covered, and whether or not you need authorization for treatment. Despite these limits, more Americans have access to care than they did before. Due to social factors such as stigma, however, whether or not they gain access to treatment still remains a major public health issue.
The problem of access to treatment even extends into the criminal justice system. A study conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) found that of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States, more than 65% of them met the criteria for a substance abuse disorder, yet only 11% of those people received treatment (CASA, 2010).
Impact on Harm Reduction
Unfortunately, stigma can affect the public’s perception of evidence-based harm reduction strategies. Harm reduction refers to public health interventions like:
Safe drug consumption rooms that are designed to decrease the risk associated with drug use (e.g., infected needles).
Due to widespread stigma about those who use drugs and who suffer from addiction, however, these interventions are not usually supported by the public and believed by some to facilitate and encourage drug use – despite evidence demonstrating that they actually decrease drug use (Logan & Marlatt, 2010).
Social and Mental Impact
Perceived stigma can cause major harm to people in their social lives. The chronic stress of discrimination may affect the mental and social health of individuals who use drugs. People who use drugs can feel pushed to the outskirts of society and may lose touch with their community and family and experience profound loneliness and isolation.
When a person does not have social ties or a person to talk to, they are less likely to reach out for healthcare or treatment. They are also more likely to be depressed and may hide their drug use from health care providers to avoid stigma and drug shaming. The mental health consequences of isolation can fuel even more drug use, leading to further isolation, and ultimately a vicious cycle that is hard to be break out of.
Perceived stigma can also be internalized. People who use drugs can view themselves as deviants; this can severely impact their self-esteem and self-worth. Historically, a dependence on drugs has been viewed as immoral or the result of a lack of self-control. These views contribute to stigma and present barriers to people accessing necessary treatment.
Fighting Back Against Stigma
People report perceived stigma from healthcare providers, loved ones, and the general public. No matter the situation, no one likes to feel judged or devalued. In order to encourage people to reach out for help and get on the path to recovery, it is important to reduce the stigma surrounding their situation. Educational programs and modeling of nonstigmatizing behavior can help people provide nonjudgmental, empathic support.
Effective ways for individuals to help reduce stigma include:
Offering compassionate support.
Displaying kindness to people in vulnerable situations.
Listening while withholding judgment.
Seeing a person for who they are, not what drugs they use.
Doing your research; learning about drug dependency and how it works.
Treating people with drug dependency with dignity and respect.
Avoiding hurtful labels.
Replacing negative attitudes with evidence-based facts.
Speaking up when you see someone mistreated because of their drug use.
Fighting Stigma Through Next-Generation PSAs
In mid-2016, Recovery Brands launched the LIVES Challenge to help fight the stigma of addiction by asking the public to create next-gen public service announcements (PSAs) that moved passed the stigmatizing announcements of years ago (think: "this is your brain on drugs"). The contest looked to find a new inspiring message for those suffering with the disease to feel supported, encouraged and motivated to step on the path to seek treatment for their addiction. The Judge's Choice winner is shown below:
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)