If you have a loved one that has struggled with drug or alcohol addiction, you know that the entire family is deeply affected. Families often live in fear of death or serious injury. There are legal issues and financial strains. There are mental health implications. There is relational conflict and family structure changes. Because of the toll addiction takes on each family member, it is important that the whole family seek treatment. A good recovery program will offer counseling to the whole family and the process should include the family, whenever possible. The family can be involved at every stage of recovery. Here are some ways that family members can get involved:

  • Intervention or initiating treatment
  • Treatment planning
  • Family therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Educational groups/workshops
  • Support groups such as Al-anon, Alateen, Narc-anon 
  • Monitor symptoms to assist in relapse prevention planning and recovery maintenance
  • Give reminders and help with the organizational side of treatment
  • Provide alternatives to old substance using patterns, events and triggers
  • Involvement in recovery community and advocacy for those impacted by addiction

Seeking treatment together, shows the person with the substance use disorder that they have support and love from their family. Support systems are an integral part of a successful recovery journey, and individuals with family commitment have higher rates of long-term recovery. Here are some important reminders for families during the recovery journey:

  • Don’t lecture or get angry, be encouraging and optimistic
  • Be a safe person to talk to
  • If the loved one is in your home, don’t have drugs or alcohol there
  • Get educated about addiction and understand the recovery process
  • Be involved in treatment and the aftercare process 
  • Provide accountability and reinforcement 

The Benefits of Family Involvement in Recovery – JourneyPure At The River (journeypureriver.com)

How to involve the family in the treatment and recovery process (serenitylane.org)

As many of us have probably heard before, physical activity can greatly improve and be a positive support for mental health. This is not just a cliché saying. Research has revealed that physical activity can reduce, and maybe even ward off, depression, anxiety, and other psychological ailments. 

Exercise has been shown to have profound effects on brain structure, especially in regions most affected by depression (smithsonianmag.com). Other benefits may also include better focus, a sense of accomplishment, social stimulation, and more. Furthermore, a study done by Hovland in 2016 showcased that exercise was on par with antidepressant drugs in terms of effectiveness against depression. 

Also, exercise promotes a healthier body through cardiovascular health, which in turn, enhances mental health and clarity. Many studies show the correlation between physical health and mental health, so the saying, “healthy body, healthy mind” may actually have truth behind it!

Resources:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-exercise-boosts-the-brain-and-improves-mental-health-180979511/

What is the stigma behind suicide? Here are a few marked differences in stigmas:

-Stigma: “A Mark that denotes a shameful quality in the individual so marked, or a quality that is considered to be shameful in a certain individual”

-Social Stigma: “Prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behavior directed towards individuals with mental health problems as a result of the psychiatric label they have been given”

-Self Stigma: “Internalizing by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination”

(seattleu.edu)

Examples of suicide stigmas – remember that each of these are harmful:

-Asking someone about suicide may plant the idea in their minds (false)

-Suicidal people are fully intent on dying (false)

-Everyone who dies by suicide is depressed (false)

(seattleu.edu)

Stigma can come from many areas of life including family, media, teachers, peers, and more. The reasoning behind why stigma can be so damaging is that it does not promote healthy recovery, it can negatively affect treatment outcomes, and it can negatively affect the perception of self and others. Stigma can be rooted internally and externally, and if not broken or addressed, may cause harm.

How to combat suicide stigma:

-Accept differences in others

-Don’t rely on stereotypes

-Offer a safe space to talk  

Resources:

https://www.seattleu.edu/wellness/mental/stigma/

Receiving culturally competent mental health care is not only important, but often critical for many individuals (especially POC communities). However, what is cultural competency?

Cultural competency means that, as a provider, one is able to interact effectively with people of different cultures, by incorporating their unique beliefs, behaviors, and needs into their diagnosis and treatment plans (fountainhouse.org). Cultural competency goes beyond understanding other’s culture, race, and ethnicity. It goes as far as acknowledging one’s own bias and how this may affect other’s mental health through issues of stigma, generalization, discrimination, and more. 

In order for the therapeutic relationship to thrive, a person must feel comfortable and understood by their mental health professional. This includes feelings of acceptance, advocacy, and genuine care and interest. When this is given in the therapeutic relationship, it can significantly improve treatment outcomes and client care. 

Mental health must, and should, be tailored to the individual with their identity, culture, and experiences taken into account. 

Resources:

https://www.fountainhouse.org/news/why-is-cultural-competence-important-in-mental-health-care

https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions

Work, paying bills, cleaning, cooking, shopping, exercising, getting enough sleep, and taking care of children are just some of the things millions of Americans do each day and it is easy to be overwhelmed. It can feel impossible to get everything done, let alone take care of yourself – especially if you’re already struggling with a mental health concern like depression or anxiety. By creating routines, we organize our days in such a way that taking care of tasks and ourselves becomes a pattern that makes it easier to get things done without having to think hard about them.

Tips for Success

Create the routine that is right for you. 

We don’t all have the same schedules or responsibilities and some of us struggle with certain parts of daily life more than others. All healthy routines should include eating a nutrition-rich diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep, but no two routines will be exactly the same. In fact, your routine may not even be exactly the same every day.

Start small.

Changing up your day-to-day routine all at once probably won’t end up with lasting results. Pick one small thing each week to work on. It could be adding something new and positive, or cutting out a bad habit. Small changes add up.

Add to your existing habits.

You probably already have some habits worked into your routine, like drinking a cup of coffee in the morning. Try adding new habits to existing ones. For instance, if you want to read more, you could set aside ten minutes to read while you have your coffee (instead of drinking it on your drive to work).

Plan ahead.

When life gets hectic, you may be tempted to skip out on the new parts of your daily routine. By doing things like prepping meals ahead of time, picking out an out the night before work, or having an alternate home workout option for the days you can’t make it to the gym, you help set yourself up for success even when you’re hurried. Make time for things you enjoy. Even if it’

Make time for things you enjoy.

Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, set aside time to do something you nd fun or relaxing—it will release chemical messengers in your body that are good for your physical and mental health.

Reward yourself for small victories. 

Set goals and celebrate when you reach them. Have you added exercise to your weekly routine and worked out every day as planned for the last couple weeks? Treat yourself! Watch a movie you’ve been wanting to see or try out that new video game.

Don’t beat yourself up. 

Making life changes can be hard and you might forget to do something that is new to your routine every once in a while. You don’t have to be perfect, just try to do better the next day

Resources:

https://www.northshore.org/healthy-you/how-to-start-a-new-routine-and-stick-to-it/

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/psychological-benefits-of-routine

Friendships can have a major impact on your health and well-being, but it’s not always easy to build or maintain them. Read below to understand the importance of friendships in your life and what you can do to develop and nurture new ones.

Benefits of Friendships:

-Increase your sense of belonging and purpose

-Boost your happiness and reduce your stress

-Improve your self-confidence and self-worth

-Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss, or deaths

-Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

-Help put your problems in context to develop a stronger sense of meaning and direction

-Increase feelings of security and help protect against stress

-Ease the emotional impact of difficulties and offer new ideas about tackling them

Friends also play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with strong social support are lower risk of many medical conditions. These include depression, high blood pressure, and obesity. However, keep in mind that although friendship can be a powerful way to support you through all the ups and downs of your life, it’s not a substitute for mental health treatment. If you have emotional experiences that affect your ability to function, consider talking to a licensed mental health professional.

Resources:

https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/social-support.aspx

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/psychological-benefits-of-friendship

Self-care is a wonderful way to promote mental wellness and a healthier relationship with oneself. Self-care can mean many different things, and may look different for everyone. There are eight different categories of self-care: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, personal, environmental, financial, and work/school/caregiving. (Willowstone.org, 2022)

Examples of each category of self-care include:

Physical

-sleep or rest

-stretching, walking, or exercise that feels good

-keeping medical appointments

-eating healthy

-getting fresh air

Emotional

-journaling or talking it out

-stress management 

-making art

-listening to music 

-self-compassion

-counseling

Social

-time with others

-healthy boundaries 

-balancing alone and social time

-positive social media

-asking for help

Spiritual

-connections

-prayer or meditation

-reflection

-nature

Personal

-listening to yourself

-hobbies

-treating yourself

-trying something new

-getting to know yourself

Environmental

-safety

-stability and security

-cleaning and organizing

-comfy space

Financial

-money management/budgeting

-savings

-seeking help if needed

-“fun” money

-paying bills

Work/School/Caregiving

-time management

-feeling productive and valued

-learning and developing skills

-break time

References

https://www.willowstone.org/news/8-types-of-self-care

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This aims to bring awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minorities communities face in regards to mental health in the United States. Some of these struggles include: less access to higher-level mental health care, discrimination/racism, more vulnerability to being uninsured, less access to culturally competent service providers, language/communication barriers, fear or mistrust of treatment, socioeconomic status, and reduced access to mental health services (Mays, V., et al, 2017)

Why is it important to break the stigma of mental health for minority communities in mental health? Stigmatization can cause a major impact on mental health. This harmful experience can cause stress, trauma, grief, and other negative emotions that may express themselves in negative mental health outcomes. 

How to contribute to raising awareness and combating stigmatization:

-Bring awareness to the use of stigmatizing language around mental illness

-Educate friends, family, and colleagues about the unique challenges of mental illness 

within minority groups

-Become aware of your own attitudes and beliefs towards minority communities to reduce negative assumptions

-Know the facts and educate yourself

-Consider donating or volunteering at local organizations geared towards the breakdown of stigmatization of mental health 

References

Mays, V. (2017) Perceived discrimination in healthcare and mental health/substance abuse treatment among Blacks, Latinos, and Whites.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5233585/

Racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities often suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to multiple factors including: inaccessibility of high-quality mental health care, cultural stigma surrounding mental health care, discrimination, and lack of awareness on mental health. (American Psychiatric Association, 2022)

Additional barriers for minorities include:

-Different cultural perceptions about mental illness and well-being

-Racism and discrimination

-Being more vulnerable to being uninsured

-Cultural differences in help-seeking behaviors

-Language or communication barriers 

-Fear and mistrust of treatment

Often times, service providers may apply the same cultural lens to minorities as they do to non-minorities which can limit mutual understanding, result in inaccurate diagnoses, and hurt rapport building and trust. 

The following graphics showcase some of these disparities (Simmons University)

How do we address this issue?

-Greater emphasis on culturally competent services

-Increase awareness of and combat sigma surrounding mental illness in minority 

communities 

-Increase research efforts that examine relationships between minorities and mental health services

-Create and support more programs that focus on improving culturally competent services

References & Resources

American Psychiatric Association, https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/cultural-competency/education/mental-health-facts

Simmons University, https://online.simmons.edu/blog/racial-disparities-in-mental-health-treatment/

How we approach relationships as adults has much to do with what our childhood relationships looked like with parents, or primary caregivers. According to the Attachment Theory by John Bowlby, there are four attachment styles: secure, avoidant, anxious, and anxious-avoidant with the secure attachment style being the healthiest and, typically, most successful. 

Signs of a secure attachment style in childhood include:

-Demonstrating distress when separated from parent/caregiver but can be calmed down.

-Showing relief or joy when reunited with parent/caregiver

-Allowing the caregiver to console them when under distress

-Exploring their environment and taking risks, feeling comforted by knowing their caregiver will be there to support them. 

Signs of a secure attachment style in adults include:

-Being able to self-regulate emotions 

-Being able to cope with feeling or being alone

-Communicating and expressing when support is needed or emotional connection is 

desired

-Working through challenging times in a relationship proactively

-Knowing when to end a relationship or set boundaries when people they care about are emotionally unavailable

How to foster a secure attachment style in childhood and adulthood:

Childhood:

-Set routines and help child experience predictability 

-Healthily express a range of emotions and illustrate the importance of feelings 

-Encourage child to talk about emotions and feelings 

-Set obtainable expectations to help build self-esteem

-Keep their word and follow through with what they say they will do 

-Self-regulate their own emotions

Adulthood:

-Actively work on relationship with yourself

-Purge toxic or counterproductive relationships 

-Build your self-esteem

-Healthily express your emotions

-Work on healing past negative experiences in therapy