World Mental Health Day is celebrated every year on October 10th. Created in conjunction with the World Federation for Mental Health, there are three relatively simple but extremely important goals for honoring this day that were created to help the mental health community:
- To heighten public awareness about the importance of mental health, and to gain understanding and improve attitudes about mental disorders.
- To promote mental health and prevent mental disorders.
- To improve care, treatment, and recovery of people with mental disorders.
When an adolescent comes to Sustain Recovery, we understand the importance of approaching treatment from different angles. While the initial goal you may have for your child in treatment is to find sobriety, Sustain Recovery knows that focusing strictly on ceasing substance abuse will not create a strong and sustainable recovery. We want to get to the root of the substance abuse and create a treatment plan that will take all areas of your child’s life into account, instead of slapping a band-aid on an infected wound. This means digging deep and treating any co-occurring mental illness or trauma that your child is dealing with. This October 10th Sustain Recovery urges you to use World Mental Health Day as an opportunity to check-in with your child.
Understanding Dual Diagnosis
Someone that has a dual diagnosis deals with both a substance use disorder and a mental illness. Almost half of youth ages 12 to 17 who were studied in the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health had a dual diagnosis of a substance use disorder and a major depressive episode. It’s common for adolescents to struggle with substance use and mental health issues. Many teenagers and young adults turn to substances to help them cope with the stress they’re feeling from school, their job, their relationship, or adjusting to new responsibilities as they grow older. Sustain Recovery likes to say that adolescents don’t have a drug and alcohol problem — drugs and alcohol are their solutions to their problems. It’s important that families understand the relevance of mental health in their child’s addiction recovery. We can help you navigate the challenges that may come your way during this process of discovery.
Knowing the Signs
Almost everyone has felt the impacts of the pandemic in one way or another. Adolescents aren’t an exception. With students returning to school (physically or virtually), there’s going to be an adjustment period for families. During this time, it’s important to know the warning signs that can signify that your child might be struggling with something larger than stressing over a test or social issues. There are 10 common warning signs that the National Alliance on Mental Illness compiled to help you decide if your child may be struggling:
- Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
- Seriously trying to harm or kill oneself or making plans to do so
- Severe out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors
- Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason
- Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight; significant weight loss or weight gain
- Seeing, hearing or believing things that are not real
- Repeatedly using drugs or alcohol
- Drastic changes in mood, behavior, personality or sleeping habits
- Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still
- Intense worries or fear that get in the way of daily activities”
One really important thing that you can do if you think your child is struggling with mental health issues is to foster a space where your child can feel safe expressing themselves. You can remind them that you are there to listen whenever they need, without judgement. If you know your child has a hard time reaching out for help, try to start the conversation on a regular basis. Having an open dialogue can make the conversation feel less formal and awkward. The more consistent you are with checking in, the easier it will be for your child to bring up something that is bothering them.
If you feel like there is room to improve the dialogue with your child about their mental health, use World Mental Health Day as an opportunity to check in with them. You might be so caught up in your responsibilities that you haven’t had a chance to have a real conversation with your child lately. It’s absolutely understandable that this might happen considering the overwhelming nature of what you are going through right now. Try not to feel guilty about this. You can now make the change to be more open.
If you have something in mind that you want to bring up with your child but you aren’t sure how to start the conversation, think first about how you can best approach discussing their current challenges. You don’t want to use an accusatory tone or talk down to your child. It is important to come from a place of compassion and understanding. You can start by saying that you’re concerned about them or have noticed a change recently. Ask them to explain what they’re dealing with and find out how you can help them. Remind them that you are there to support them and get them the help they need.
If you don’t have anything specific in mind but want to check in with your child about how they’ve been feeling and coping recently, start by asking how they’re doing in school, sports, or whatever they are involved in. Instead of asking questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” try to ask open-ended questions that can naturally stimulate a conversation. If your child is showing a warning sign that’s listed above or r anything else that seems worrisome, explain to them that you are worried and want to help. Remind them that they can come to you at any time if they need support.
Continue to Check In Regularly
Although World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10th, mental health should be talked about on a regular basis. Don’t ask your child once about their challenges and never ask again. Follow up with your child on a regular basis and discuss what they have going on that may be creating stressors. The better you are at being proactive, the less likely you’ll find your family in a crisis situation.
Sustain Recovery is here to help your family make mental health a priority. We understand that adolescents deal with a multitude of complex issues and challenges on a daily basis. If you feel like your child is also struggling with a mental health disorder or underlying challenge, it is important to be proactive and address their issues as soon as possible. At Sustain Recovery, we can offer the help and support you need for you and your child. We understand that substance use is just a part of the problem and that most likely they are using substances to mask potential mental health issues. Truthfully, every day should be a mental health day. World Mental Health Day on October 10th provides the opportunity for families like you to recognize the prevalence of mental illness in adolescents and adults. This is a global issue and Sustain Recovery is here to help you face this challenge head on. Call us today at (949) 407-9052. We can’t wait to speak with you and get your child the help they need.