If you scrolled past this post and thought, “oh, we really don’t have that problem in our area”, then this post is for you. Recently, local news featured a story exposing the significant drug problem, particularly related to the deadly drug Heroin, in some very affluent areas in metro Atlanta. As is often the case with these types of news specials and documentaries, the special was eye opening and left many viewers wondering what they could do to help. This blog post features a few suggestions as to what you, yes you, can do to promote change as it relates to addiction and other mental health issues in your community.
1. Acknowledge that there is a problem, even in your neighborhood. Addiction is not a disease that just affects certain people. The research and evidence consistently shows that individuals from a number of socioeconomic backgrounds are impacted by addiction. By acknowledging that there is a problem that exists and avoiding judgment among your own circles of friends, families, and coworkers you can promote change.
2. Support mental health care -There are a number of ways to support mental health care, but one of the number one ways to do this is by normalizing the process. Many individuals avoid getting the help they need because of the stigma around mental health care. If you have ever walked into a therapist’s office yourself, then you can probably relate. Since many young adults are the ones struggling with addiction, you can imagine how difficult this can be. Make it part of your everyday conversation to speak positively towards mental health. Mental health care is just as important as any other aspect of health care. In many cases, it could be preventative care for addiction. When this process is normalized as part of good self care it allows for more people to get the help that they need.
3. Ask for help – Just about all of us can benefit from mental health care at some point in our lives. It is just good self care, and has a major impact on many physical ailments as well. When you have received your own mental health care, then it is easier to have empathy for others about what it is like to go through that process. In the case of addiction, families often look for help for the addict first. This is often difficult as sometimes the addict is not ready for help yet. Either way, it is absolutely vital for the parents and/or partners of those struggling with addiction to get the help and support they deserve. Living with someone who is in active addiction is extremely taxing. It can often tear a family apart due to the significant emotional distress felt by all. Family therapy is just as vital as support for the addict, and it may very well encourage the addict to get some help of their own when they see their friends and family members doing so.
You would be hard pressed to find someone who addiction has not touched their life in some way, shape, or form. The way that we promote social change is by being part of the change rather than standing back and waiting for someone else to do it. This means taking an introspective look into how you can be a change agent. Addiction is a manifestation of a systemic issue on multiple levels. Each one of us is part of multiple systems (e.g. family, community, school, church, government, etc…). If we work towards changing our selves for the better, then it ultimately impacts the systems we are a part of. When a number of people do this, the change is evident!