Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign – Coping with Mental Illness

Name: Ashley Holder

Coping with Mental Illness

Many people with
addiction are also suffering from a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.
For example, alcohol has been known to be heavily abused within the
depressed population. Some people experiment with drugs because their
friends want them to or because they’re curious. Some people grow
up in an environment where drug use/abuse are considered the norm.
However, so many people, even within these examples, are trying and
using drugs to take their minds off the mess inside of their heads.

As a nation, we
are facing more stress with each successive generation. There are
things today that people previously did not have to worry about.
Safety has become such an issue that parents are afraid to let their
children play outside without supervision, but when those parents
were younger, they consistently played outside while adults were
nowhere to be found. Technology has seemingly made our lives easier,
but we can now have our focus split between more things at once. The
constant stimulation is enough to keep our brain active late into the
night, cutting into our sleep. There is also the increased risk of
hacking. With everything that we keep online these days, if someone
can hack into that information, lives can be destroyed. Careers are
more demanding, and it is not uncommon for a successful employee to
be forced to make a choice between spending time with her family and
furthering her career. No matter what we do, we cannot seem to
decrease our stress levels.

Stress can have a
detrimental effect on one’s mental health. Specifically, depression
and anxiety show a strong correlation to stress. Increased stress
increases anxiety and the risk of depression, as well as worsening
existing depressive symptoms. While our nation has made mental
illness less of a taboo, there is still a stigma attached to seeking
treatment for psychiatric ailments. Without the proper treatment,
sufferers may turn to unhealthy coping strategies. Overeating can
result to turn the focus away from the emotion(s) and to food. The
same idea goes for risky behavior, adrenaline seeking, self-harm, and
alcohol and other drugs. Drugs can seem to provide the relief that
other methods can’t.

Addiction is
costly for everyone, both on a personal level and on a societal
level. Families are ripped apart because of a loved one’s
addiction, and that loss can affect a child’s development and color
his thoughts for the rest of his life. Emergency services are spent
on reviving addicts that overdose, and beds in psychiatric hospitals
are filled by those trying to detox. They are entitled to those
services, but so are those facing other emergencies that are not able
to receive treatment as quickly. Addiction is a disease, and when a
person is in it, he cannot stop. The responsibility then falls on the
communities to begin a movement against this crisis.

On a societal
level, education is key. Educating the public about the dangers of
drugs and addiction are great, but I believe that education on stress
and the effects it has on us is also vital. If we can encourage
addicts to seek behavioral health treatment, those that agree may
find that recovery is less difficult to maintain when the underlying
symptoms causing their addition are gone. Every member within a
society has a place in this. In addition, those intimately familiar
with this issue, either through personal experience or through the
experience of a friend or family member, need to speak out. We must
share what we can to help others understand what addiction can do to
a family and how it can destroy lives. We are all hurt when addiction
runs rampant, and we all have the ability to contribute to a