Mental and substance use disorders affect millions of Americans and directly touch the lives of individuals, family members, neighbors, and colleagues. Given the widespread impact and societal cost of these behavioral health conditions, it’s important for communities to make prevention, treatment, and recovery support available and accessible for all who need them. Community members, such as ministers, politicians, youth leaders, and police officers, can be influential in creating environments that promote and enable the positive realities of recovery.
Every September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), sponsors National Recovery Month (Recovery Month) to increase awareness of behavioral health conditions. This celebration promotes the message that behavioral health is essential to health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover from mental and substance use disorders.
The 25th annual Recovery Month theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out,” encourages people to openly discuss – or speak up about – mental and substance use disorders and the reality of recovery. It aims to foster public understanding and acceptance of the benefits of prevention, treatment and recovery from behavioral health conditions. The observance also promotes ways first responders, faith leaders, youth and young adults, and policymakers can recognize these issues and reach out to help others, as well as themselves.
Why It’s Important…
The prevalence of mental and substance use disorders is high – nearly 1 out of every 5 adults in the United States – about 43.7 million people – has a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or schizophrenia,1 and approximately 22 million have been classified with substance dependence or abuse.2 In spite of high prevalence, most Americans believe that recovery from mental and/or substance use disorders is possible,3,4 and that we can counter these statistics by engaging important segments of our communities in making behavioral health a priority.
Faith leaders, youth and young adults, first responders, and policymakers all play unique roles in society and have the power to support healthy lifestyles. Members of the recovery community can lead the charge to educate these audiences about how they can provide support, starting with the basics of recovery.
For many people, recovery:5
- Emerges from hope, which is fostered by friends, families, providers, colleagues, and others who have experienced recovery themselves;
- Occurs via many pathways, which may include professional clinical treatment, use of medications, support from families and in schools, faith-based approaches, peer support, and other approaches;
- Is holistic, meaning recovery encompasses a person’s whole life, including mind, body, spirit, and community;
- Is supported by relationships with peers and allies, and on social networks;
- Is culturally based and influenced;
- Is supported by addressing trauma, including physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, disaster, or profound loss;
- Involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibilities; and
- Is fostered by respect.
These principles of recovery can help people establish a blueprint for their own journey. However, it’s important for people living with these conditions to become aware that they are not alone in their efforts.6 The right support system can help ensure that those in need are addressing the four key aspects of recovery:7
Health: The person learns to overcome or manage his or her condition(s) or symptoms – and make informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being;
Home: It is also important to have a stable and safe place to live;
Purpose: A person in recovery participates in meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteer opportunities, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and has the independence, income, and resources to participate in society; and
Community: Relationships and social networks should provide support, friendship, love, and hope.
Groups That Can Make a Difference…
Anyone can be affected by mental and/or substance use disorders. This year’s Recovery Month observance focuses on ways the mental health and substance use recovery community can use to connect with four different audiences that play distinct and important roles in helping others, or themselves, find a path of recovery.
Faith Leaders: Faith leaders are credible voices within their communities. They have a platform to openly discuss behavioral health issues and promote acceptance, so people living with mental and/or substance use disorders realize they are not alone. This section can be used to help faith leaders provide support for those with mental and/or substance use disorders.
Youth (12-17) and Young Adults (18-25): Youth and young adults have a high risk of developing a mental and/or substance use disorder. The recovery community is vital to educating this audience that there is no shame, only courage and honesty, in asking for help or reaching out to a person in need. This section can be used to teach youth and young adults about prevention, treatment, and recovery support services.
First Responders: First responders are often first-hand witnesses to behavioral health issues that become evident during or after a traumatic episode or over a period of multiple interactions with law enforcement or others. This section can be used to teach first responders on ways they can address behavioral health conditions during an emergency and help them spread the word about prevention, treatment, and recovery options outside of emergency situations.
Policymakers: Policymakers are in a unique position to speak up about behavioral health conditions and influence policies that help people receive the support they need. This section can be used to aid policymakers in confronting these issues and help them understand the widespread, adverse effects of untreated behavioral health conditions on their communities and how they can help.