October is the month we collectively focus on preventing substance abuse and remembering those whom we have lost to the addiction crisis. We also acknowledge and congratulate those who have taken steps to recovery. This national recognition month began in October 2011 and has been going strong every year since then. With the pandemic continuing its stronghold, it’s more important than ever to be aware of those that might need help and to share the promise of recovery when and where we can.

Mental health and substance use disorders affect people from all walks of life and all age groups. These illnesses are common, recurrent, and often serious, but they are treatable and many people do recover. Mental disorders involve changes in thinking, mood, and/or behavior. These disorders can affect how we relate to others and make choices. Reaching a level that can be formally diagnosed often depends on a reduction in a person’s ability to function as a result of the disorder. For example:

  • Serious mental illness is defined by someone over 18 having (within the past year) a diagnosable mental, behavior, or emotional disorder that causes serious functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • For people under the age of 18, the term “Serious Emotional Disturbance” refers to a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder in the past year, which resulted in functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits the child’s role or functioning in family, school, or community activities.
  • Substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.

The coexistence of both mental health and substance use disorder is referred to as co-occurring disorders. The National Institute for Mental Health’s Mental Health Information page has information about specific conditions and disorders as well as their symptoms. (SOURCE: SAMHSA)

Here are a few resources you may want to share or use in your work as a certified addiction counselor.

  1. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network is offering many free and downloadable publications focused on children and teens including:
    • A series focusing on Trauma in Families with Substance Abuse
    • The Power of Parenting: How to help your child after the death of a sibling from substance use or overdose.
    • Engaging Adolescents in Treatment (Tips for Mental Health Professionals)
    • And many more.
  2. The California Drug Take-Back Program. Many addictions begin with prescriptions taken from a family member or even stolen from someone’s medicine cabinet. Be safe with prescriptions and use the Take-Back program resources to help people dispose of medications safely.
  3. CalHOPE is a NEW California resource to address mental health and managing stress in the pandemic. They offer individual and group crisis counseling and support, individual and public education, community networking and support, and connections to resources.