Drug Rehab 2022 Round 1 – The Perfect Storm: Addiction and Mental Illness

Name: Kayla Marie Schlotman

The Perfect Storm: Addiction and Mental Illness

Over the summer leading into my senior year, my brother took his life after a long battle against depression, borderline personality disorder, and anxiety. Due to the constant burden of battling mental health issues, he turned to marijuana and alcohol as an escape from reality. Unfortunately, my brother’s situation is far from unique. As the mental health crisis continues to challenge the modern teenager and adult, drugs and alcohol are utilized as unhealthy coping mechanisms.

As the world continues to survive through a seemingly endless pandemic, extended periods of isolation have resulted in decreasing mental wellness. To make matters worse, this relatively global phenomenon continues with a lack of support outlets. Because mental illnesses are highly stigmatized, many struggling with their mental health do not seek treatment. Resultingly, at-risk teenagers and adults turn to alternative coping methods. Rather than processing emotional issues and devising plans to accept support, many people choose to escape reality through substance use. In my brother’s case, he began to drink and smoke marijuana periodically. By doing so, he felt free from his feelings of loneliness and worry. Despite my family’s consistent efforts to aid Zach in becoming sober, my brother continued to struggle with addiction. The problem continued to amplify until he felt that he could only be at peace when intoxicated. Similar to my brother, millions of people worldwide turn to drugs and alcohol for temporary relief. Although substance use usually begins as a “one-time thing”, it typically leads to recurring abuse. As my brother’s mental health deteriorated, his battle against addiction worsened his situation.

The primary weapon against addiction and mental illness is support. As a society, emphasizing mental wellness and creating outlets will aid in reducing the severity of addiction and mental disorders. Support methods can include increasing mental health education in schools, establishing free rehabilitation programs in community centers like libraries, and reforming counseling in high schools. In the average high school, counselors handle broad ranges of issues from creating student schedules to aiding at-risk students. To improve their efficiency and better assist students in need, schools must assign counselors solely to logistics or solely to student help. By creating an outlet reserved for students seeking help, counselors will be able to provide wellness support without juggling the responsibilities of schedule changes. If society approaches the growing mental illness and addiction problem by implementing support initiatives in high schools, teenagers will be better equipped to respond to stressful situations appropriately. By mitigating the situation proactively, better mental aid will prevent students from relying on outside sources to relieve temporary pain. As a result, the number of young adults who turn to drugs will decrease.

In addition to proactive therapy methods, rehabilitation programs and the discussion of addiction must be remodeled to encourage addicts to seek treatment. Currently, drug and alcohol use is often glorified in music and television. After substance use is portrayed as normal, the media then often displays addiction as shameful. To facilitate a higher rehabilitation rate, we as a society need to reform the depiction of drug addiction. Shaming those who turn to drugs and alcohol fails to address this issue, but rather discourages those who struggle from coming forward. Emphasizing open communication and the importance of seeking support can create an environment where treatment is not stigmatized. Ultimately, recovery rates will increase as support is more readily accepted.

Overall, the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction fuels the drug epidemic facing America today. By providing accessible mental health support and encouraging treatment, we can combat this crisis. Essentially, our first step to battling addiction is to prevent one’s desire to escape reality. To do this, we must implement wellness initiatives in schools, the workplace, and community centers as a way to promote appropriate coping habits.