The Connections Between Mental Health and Addiction
Mental Health and Addiction care has come into sharp focus recently, as has addiction. A recent article in the New York Times takes a look at the close relationship between the two, and how our justice system fits into the equation.
Mental Health and Addiction Go Hand in Hand
The article, which was written by a director and research assistant at Substance Use. And Mental Health program at the Vera Institute of Justice, points out that from a health-care perspective.
It is virtually impossible to separate addiction from mental health issues. They are often entangled, and each condition exacerbates the other, many times. And that’s because they use drugs or alcohol to self medicate.
And so then, in the case of dual diagnosis, care must be focused on treating both conditions.
According to the report published by the Vera Institute of Justice, nearly 3 in 4 people (72%) in jail have both a serious mental illness and a substance abuse disorder. Yet even in light of these numbers, less than 15% of those who are incarcerated receive the appropriate treatment they need.
Upon discovering such a striking correlation between incarceration and those with substance abuse and mental health problems, the authors of the study wanted to seek an “alternative approach.”
Their research (published here) challenged “the long-held assumption that people with mental illness commit crime primarily because of their illness.” There are actually a variety of factors, including trauma, poverty, homelessness and substance use among others, that have an impact on these individuals landing in jail.
Preventing future arrests, they found, had less to do with changes in legislation, and more to do with establishing stable home environments and relationships, and creating jobs.
Mental Health and Addiction
“We cannot decouple [mental health care and addiction treatment] needs when delivering care. But the justice system-first response to both of these issues intensifies the problem,” the authors wrote. Incarceration separates addicts and those with mental illness from their support systems.
And to make matters worse, they argued, once there, these people typically do not receive the effective care they need. So when they want to get better, If/when they get out, they’re no better. And often in actuality they’re worse – than they were before going to jail in the first place.
The justice system is about punitive action, not rehabilitation. And ultimately, those facing mental health problems and addictions can only be helped by the latter. The Vera Institute of Justice advocated for community groups and projects that help those with criminal records. So that they can get beyond their past and live in integrated societies that can offer access to healthy lives.
Getting the Right Kind of Help
It is an unfortunate fact that mental health, substance abuse and incarceration are so closely related. While the conversations surrounding health and addiction are continually changing, there’s no time like now to get care. Whether you’re looking for help for yourself or a loved one. The Watershed has a team of addiction specialists ready to step in and support you. Give us a call: 1-800-861-1768.Tags: disease of addiction, mental health awareness