Family Tools: Recognizing Substance Use Disorders & Mental Health Concerns
It’s time to get the kids back to school! These are exciting times—a new school year for our kids—a blank slate to define who they are and to set goals for this new chapter. The Ask, Listen, Learn organization offers you some great hints to make this next chapter a good experience. The FRESH START information is all about being ready to make good decisions, which is why communication is so important as the year begins. Visit Fresh Start to a New School Year: Parents! – Ask, Listen, Learn (asklistenlearn.org) to learn how to set a strong foundation for communication and responsible behaviors, especially for decisions regarding substance use. Learn about topics such as:
- Avoiding situations where others might be engaging in risky behavior.
- Knowing how to react when faced with peer pressure.
- Maintaining open communications throughout the year and identifying a trusted adult to talk to.
These conversations are important, but so are modeling responsible behaviors.
- Use positive talk and avoid gossip
- Show confidence when you take action or make a decision—and voice your emotions about it
- Role play with kids about how to find a safe contact, say NO, and advocate for themselves and others.
- Never overconsume alcohol, especially around children, and always plan for a safe ride home from events where alcohol may be present.
- Show your child that it's ok for anyone - including yourself - to refuse a drink or choose not to drink without giving an excuse or reason.
- Never serve, purchase or supply alcohol to those under the legal drinking age. It’s unsafe. It’s illegal, and it’s irresponsible.
Learn About NAMI
The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) shares that Mental health conditions are far more common than you think. This is mainly because people don’t like to, or are scared to, talk about them. Be aware however:
- 1 in 5 US. adults experience mental illness each year
- 1 in 20 US. adults experience serious mental illness each year
- 1 in 6 US. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
- 50%of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
A mental health condition isn’t the result of one event. Research suggests there may be multiple, linking causes. This doesn’t mean that you’re broken. It doesn’t mean that you, or your family, did something “wrong.” Mental illness is no one’s fault. For many, recovery —is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with mental health issues, NAMI is a good resource for help and support. Receive hope, connection and progress as well as get mental health community news, stories, and resources delivered to your inbox once a month.
Subscribe to: NAMINow|NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Fall is approaching. As you prep for your teens move to college, don’t forget about a discussion with your young college student about alcohol use and the risky behaviors that often accompany. NIAAA has a collection of data, resources and conservation guide to help you with this “touchy” topic.
National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is observed each July to bring awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority communities face regarding mental illness in the United States. During the month, the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) will focus on tools and resources addressing the stigma about mental health among racial and ethnic minority populations.
To learn more, visit: National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month — Resources and Publications (hhs.gov)
Healthy Recovery Journey
An important part of a successful recovery journey from substance use disorder and mental health issues is a heathy nutritional plan. Mental Health America shares some ideas for maintaining good mental health. Check out the recovery suggestions to implement along with good nutrition.
- Focus on your strengths.
- Focus on solving problems,
- Focus on the future instead of hurts from the past,
- Focus on your likes instead of your illness.
The CDC reminds us that after a disaster our children may experience anxiety, fear, sadness, sleep disruption, distressing dreams, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and anger outbursts. Learn the signs of children’s mental stress to help them cope. With the recent school losses in the news, check in with your child and their feelings.
Visit: Children's Mental Health & Disasters | CDC.
May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and reducing stigma. We can all recognize that the stigma still prevents people from seeking help. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the stage for long periods of emotional and physical isolation has helped lead to people experiencing worse mental health outcomes and increased substance use causing elevated suicidal thoughts. Approximately 50% of the people experiencing serious mental health issues also experience substance use disorder. Learn the relation between co-occurring disorders by visiting: Substance Use Awareness for Mental Health | Gateway Foundation. Learn, support and grow as a healthy family.
Alcohol Awareness Month
Alcohol Awareness Month is a public health program organized by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence as a way of increasing outreach and education regarding the dangers of alcoholism and issues related to alcohol. The program was started in April 1987 with the intention of targeting college-aged students who might be drinking too much as part of their newfound freedom. It has since become a national movement to draw more attention to the causes and effects of alcoholism as well as how to help families and communities deal with drinking problems.
Learn more at What Is Alcohol Awareness Month?
Help for All
Do you suspect a family member is living with a substance use disorder (SUDs)? When a family member is experiencing SUDs, it can affect more than just the person in need of recovery. You, as family, are likely to notice when your loved one is experiencing changes in their mood or behavior. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for helping a family member who is drinking too much, using drugs, or dealing with a mental illness, research shows that your support can play a major role in helping. It is important to know you can help your loved one connect to treatment, resources, and services to begin and stay on their recovery journey. It is also important to remember that the unique challenges that come from helping a loved one with a substance use disorder can be demanding, so you should take steps to prioritize your own health as well. The Illinois Family Resource Center encourages families to be open to the options of support groups or family therapy and counseling. This can improve treatment effectiveness by supporting the whole family. For help with a substance use disorder, check out the Illinois Helpline at: https://helplineil.org/ or the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Take a look at the SAMHSA Families Family Support Guide at https://www.samhsa.gov/families. for more help, visit Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders | SAMHSA.
PAWS. It's Not Your Pets Feet.
PAWS, Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, is a family of lingering effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal. As a family member, the more you know and understand about the symptoms of early recovery, the more support you may be for your loved one and the less stress and confusion you may experience as you move forward. PAWS may be mildly unpleasant or seriously uncomfortable. They are withdrawal symptoms that often come with the territory when you're in early recovery from substance use disorder. More important, even though PAWS is a temporary condition, the symptoms can become a powerful relapse factor. This is true even for people who are fully devoted to staying clean and sober. Thus, your understanding and support is important.
Remember, PAWS symptoms are a passing occurrence. Withdrawal syndrome as the brain's way of correcting the chemical imbalances it suffered during active addiction. A few of the symptoms you may see in your loved one are:
- Foggy thinking/trouble remembering
- Urges and cravings
- Irritability or hostility
- Sleep disturbances—insomnia or vivid dreams
- Anxiety or panic
Avoiding post-acute withdrawal syndrome isn't possible but you can learn how to support your loved one and help them through the process. They can learn to effectively manage symptoms, thus reducing the risk of relapse. While every person's withdrawal pattern is a little different, the process may take six months to two years before the brain again naturally produces the necessary chemicals of endorphins and dopamine.
- To assist you in understanding PAWS, check out the Hazelden/Betty Ford website. https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/articles/post-acute-withdrawal-syndrome?utm_source=clinical-connection&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=69645EPCHI.
A Family Disease
Addiction affects not only individuals, but the family members and friends of the person struggling with substance use disorder. A reminder that addiction is a family disease. As families join in the treatment process, it can be helpful for recovery of the entire family and the family's growth process as a supportive system.
Check out the information to assist families from Hazelden Betty Ford at Helping Families Cope with Addiction | Research Update | Hazelden Betty Ford.
Help with Virtual Al-Anon
Who are Al-Anon members? Al-Anon members are people, just like you, who are worried about someone with a drinking problem. With our continuing challenge of living during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, al-anon.org shares many Al-Anon groups scrambled to find ways to continue to meet and chosen to meet temporarily online. If you are a newcomer to this support organization, Al-Anon has a link to help you access the support even in this stressful time. It is clear that Al-Anon members realize the importance of welcoming newcomers and they offer hope to you despite the restrictions of the pandemic. Taking care of yourself is as important for you as recovery is for your loved one.
To begin, visit https://al-anon.org/blog/welcoming-newcomers-to-electronic-meetings/.