Families and Communities Can Make a Difference

Millions of Americans who experience substance use disorder often feel isolated and alone. These feelings are attributed to shame and societal norms that suggest mental illness implies weakness or deviant, immoral behavior, among other less flattering conclusions. These stereotypes are not only wrong, but they also harm our loved ones suffering from addiction because they promote isolation over support. Our family, friends, and neighbors would choose sobriety over addiction or abuse every time, without fail! Yet, too many of us shun people because of an illness. We do not shun people for a physical ailment like a broken bone or cancer. So, why do we shun people for a mental illness? A person with substance use disorder is in great need of support, just the same as a person diagnosed with any other chronic illness like diabetes. It’s important that we offer support to individuals facing mental and/or substance use disorders. In fact, we need to create environments and relationships that promote acceptance. Support from families is essential to recovery, so it’s important that family members have the tools to start conversations about prevention, treatment, and recovery. Too many people are still unaware that prevention works and that mental and substance use disorders can be treated, just like other health problems.

Working directly with treatment courts and behavioral health providers to support people on their paths to sobriety, I have witnessed the positive reality of recovery. Individuals who embrace recovery achieve improved mental and physical health and form stronger relationships with their neighbors, family members, and peers. I have also observed how substance use disorders affect people of all ethnicities, ages, genders, geographic regions, and socioeconomic levels. Just as addiction does not discriminate, nor does recovery. Recovery is possible for all. People can get better, both physically and emotionally, and the support of a welcoming community only helps.

Families and communities can find hope and spread the message that recovery works by celebrating National Recovery Month every September, an initiative sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

averhealth is celebrating Recovery Month by participating in a variety of educational and entertaining events like the Missouri Coalition of Recovery Providers (MCRSP)-Eastern Region Celebrate Recovery “Walk in My Shoes” Awareness Walk September 23  and the Henrico Drug Court 5K to honor individuals and families who are in long-term recovery. Your attendance will demonstrate the support of the recovery community, including those who provide prevention, treatment, and recovery support services.

I urge all community members to join the celebration and help stem the incidence of mental and substance use disorders. Let people know that free, confidential help is available 24 hours a day through SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD).

Offering support to those experiencing mental and/or substance use disorders can make a huge difference. Together we can help others realize the promise of recovery and give families the right support to help their loved ones.