In 1949, Mental Health America led the way in establishing May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Since that time, mental health care has come a long way through a better understanding of behavioral health conditions, the development of corresponding evidence-based practices, and improved health care delivery.
However, we still have a ways to go.
The opioid epidemic has become an all-too-familiar topic in hospital grand rounds, in political speeches, in daily news briefings, and in social media hashtags.
However, there is another epidemic, one that in many cases actually overlaps with, and exacerbates, the opioid crisis: benzodiazepine misuse.
The prevalence of substance use disorder (SUD), highlighted by the opioid crisis, is not new news.
Approximately, 21 million Americans have an SUD. In 2015 alone, opioids killed more than 33,000 people in the United States, more than any previous year on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
President Donald Trump has acknowledged that overdose deaths are “a tremendous problem in our country.”
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Aug. 8, he stated that this epidemic threatens everybody, “young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural communities.”
Suicide has had an impact on my life since I was a young child.
My grandfather completed suicide when I was just 5 years old. I saw the impact on my family from a child’s eyes, but the true depth of that impact wouldn’t come to pass until later in life.
So often when we speak about mental illness and substance use disorders, we talk about numbers: the number of people who have died from overdoses; the number of people who take antidepressants; the cost of mental health to society at large.
However, at the Kennedy Forum Illinois in December, keynote speakers put a face and soul to addiction.
Almost a century has passed, but these words continue to ring true and speak to our current tragic opiate crisis.
This crisis has touched almost everyone I have met and has spared no demographic group. The silver lining in this cloudy sky is the mobilization and alignment of legislators, medical professionals, the public and the insurance industry on wiping out this epidemic. Fortunately, changes have occurred rapidly that foretell a positive direction.
It’s not always easy to look in the mirror, especially at my age when the blemishes of experience start to crop up as brown spots and fine (or not-so-fine) lines.
However, my age has also taught me that the real difficulty of looking in the mirror is beyond a skin-deep reflection. I had an experience recently on my way to a hair appointment that forced a look beyond the fine lines.
Everyone seems to have a theory about addiction.
Some say it’s a character flaw. Just say no. Others say it’s a victimization. Society has done me wrong. Alcoholics Anonymous says it’s a spiritual emptiness. Find your version of God, and you will find your way. Then, there are neuroscientists who say it’s a chronic brain disease while others say it’s a chronic societal disease.