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Addressing Mental Health and Substance Abuse

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Like addiction, mental illness knows no bounds. It does not discriminate against the wealthy or poor; it does not elect to affect one race over another. And like any other disease, it requires treatment.

Following the death of beloved actor Robin Williams this month, the conversation about mental health and its ties to substance abuse is getting louder.

Recognizing the relationship

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the Coalition Against Drug Abuse, the relationship between mental illness and substance abuse is a strong one. Some 50% of those with severe mental conditions also have a substance abuse problem, while 37% of alcoholics and 53% of drug addicts suffer from mental illness.

Robin Williams himself admitted his struggles with both alcohol and drug abuse in the past. Though his wife confirmed he was still sober at the time of his death, the actor continued to battle the demons of depression and anxiety.

Co-occurring conditions

“Co-occurring conditions” is a term used to describe the symptoms of those who suffer from addiction and mental illness simultaneously. Symptoms of both diseases are similar and can produce comparable effects, so it’s not always easy to discern which disease is causing which problems.

Because of their extremely close relationship and their equally negative impact on one’s health, oftentimes recovery can include what’s called a “dual-diagnosis” treatment. This kind of treatment takes the patient’s physical well-being into account, beginning the recovery process with detox and continuing with substance abuse rehabilitation. But, it also considers mental well-being, focusing on psychiatric treatment to help alleviate the pain and symptoms caused by mental illness.

Together, this kind of approach helps stabilize the patient and prepare him or her for the best possible outcome in a rehabilitation program.

Remembering Robin Williams and getting help

Robin Williams’ death is a tragic and heartbreaking example of just how dark mental illness can be. While his legacy lives on, his death serves as a sad reminder that anyone can be susceptible to illness and addiction.

Everyone’s suffering is unique, but if you’re struggling with mental illness and/or substance abuse problems, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Organizations like The Watershed are here to help. Whether you need help for yourself, or for someone you love, don’t wait. Get help. Call our hotline today: 1-800-861-1768.


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