When dealing with substance abuse, there is often a sense of denial that things are “out of control.” When a person is addicted to a substance, that becomes the first thing they think of when they wake up in the morning, and it continues to be on their mind throughout the day. While some individuals do not use a substance daily, “binges”, which refer to a large amount of a substance used in a short time, can be equally dangerous. For a free anonymous screening for alcohol, click here. For a different substance, contact your local mental health center for an assessment to determine your level of use and its risks.
When dealing with this sensitive subject, it is most important to let the person know that you are confronting them out of love and genuine concern. For instance, instead of saying, “You’re a completely different person now and you’re always drunk or high”, try, “I feel like I’m losing my friend; it hurts me to see you doing this kind of damage to yourself.” The more empathetic you are to this person, the more likely they will listen to you and consider your opinions. However, realize that when dealing with the powerful force of addiction, it HAS to be up to that individual to recognize the problem and want to change.
There are different agencies and treatment facilities that can work with you on what’s called a “sliding scale”. This means that the agency will come up with a payment plan that is affordable for you. Some inpatient facilities are grant-funded and offer detox and treatment for those specifically without insurance. Many outpatient and intensive outpatient programs are willing to work with an individual who genuinely wants the treatment. The Mental Health Association has a list of such resources; contact us at (865)-584-9125.
There are many different forms of treatment besides medication. However, due to advances in medicines, many of them treat the more severe symptoms of a mental illness, such as auditory hallucinations and anxiety. The most effective method of treatment has been proven to be a combination of medication and some form of therapy. A therapist can help you change your thought patterns, identify positive coping skills instead of negative ones, and assist you with additional resources. For children, behavioral modification has been shown to be effective as well.
Mental illness has long carried a negative stigma (or negative association) due to the lack of knowledge surrounding the subject. Thankfully, mental health treatment has come very far over the past few decades and most people with a mental illness have the ability to live a fulfilling and meaningful life. When discussing the subject, you may try comparing the mental illness to that of a physical one: in order to remain in good health, the illness must be addressed, treated, and maintained. Also, many of those who are famous have come forward and talked about their difficulties and triumphs with mental illnesses. The more education we can provide, the greater our chances are of eliminating stigma all together.
Some individuals may be uncomfortable in a one-on-one session, whiles others prefer it that way. The development of support groups has been a tremendous asset to the mental health community. These groups are often run by “peers”, or someone who has been through the experience themselves or had a close relative. Further, thanks to the Internet, there are online support groups in which you can remain totally anonymous. Support comes in all shapes and sizes; find one that you are comfortable with and use it to your advantage.
There are some resources in Knoxville that allow an individual to receive treatment on a “sliding scale”, in which the agency will work out a financial payment plan. At the Mental Health Association, we have a list of the mental health providers that work with sliding scale fees. Also, for medications only, there are prescription assistance programs such as The Dispensary of Hope, Project Access, and the Interfaith Clinic. For more information, please contact us at (865)-584-9125.
When a loved one is admitted to the hospital, it can be strenuous on all parties involved. Hospitals have case managers, sometimes called “discharge planners”, who are either RN’s or social workers. These people are your link to aftercare services, such as housing, medication management, and therapy. When discussing the patient’s needs after discharge, be honest with the discharge planner about your concerns; they are most likely to be able to help find a halfway house or living arrangement that will be suitable for the patient and allow them to still receive care. There is a list of supportive housing provided by the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities that is available online; these are all licensed facilities.
Medications, like other forms of treatment, are not a “one size fits all” type deal. What works well for one person may not have any effect or create negative side effects for another. If you are experiencing ANY discomfort with your medication, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Also, be sure to tell your doctor which medications you are already taking, as the interactions have potential to be dangerous.
As with doctors and other professionals, not everyone is going to have a connection that is comfortable and therapeutic. If you fee like you are not connecting with your therapist for any reason, it is important for you to notify that therapist or their supervisor to discuss seeing someone new. Remember, your treatment is about YOU; the therapeutic relationship has to be one of trust and honesty.
Peer support can be one of the most helpful tools when dealing with a mental illness or addiction simply because those involved have “walked a mile in your shoes”; in other words, they have had some of the same experiences as you have and can honestly say, “I know how you feel.” There are several peer-run support groups in the community and some agencies have treatment programs that are conducted strictly by fellow consumers. Upon completion of a program, many of those who have received treatment find that helping others in their process of recovery increases the likelihood that they will avoid a relapse.
Are you or a loved one tired, blue, irritable, or worn-down? Have you noticed that you or someone you know don't enjoy things as much as you used to? Do you spend too much time worrying? Are you having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? It could be more than stress.
"The wealthiest country in the history of the world continues to ignore the needs of those children, women and men who are mentally unwell. In East Tennessee, the Mental Health Association continues to stand up for people who cannot stand up for themselves. And it continues to help the families of those who are mentally ill when those families do not know where to turn for help. Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The mentally ill are our neighbors and the Mental Health Association never forgets that simple truth.
I am proud to be able to support this wonderful group."
Reverend Charles Fels