Throughout the week, we have advocated education as a way to prevent or reduce the effects of substance abuse or underage drinking. By educating ourselves, we gain the advantage in overcoming many of life’s obstacles; it is a common theme in each life category as we observe National Prevention Week which came to a close Friday.
Utilizing all the information given over the past week, we continue to take one step closer to having better mental, emotional and behavioral well-being for our families and ourselves.
In the past year, an estimated 1 in 5 (or 43.7 million) people age 18 or older in the U.S. had a mental illness including mood, anxiety and eating disorders. Among adults reporting a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder during their lifetime, more than half report that the disorder started in childhood or adolescence. These statistics underscore the importance of promoting overall psychological well-being and recognizing and supporting positive characteristics such as the ability to manage stress, to demonstrate flexibility under changing conditions and to bounce back from adverse situations.
By talking about mental health and modeling healthy behaviors, individuals and communities can help prevent mental health issues and other behaviors that can accompany them, such as substance use. Statistics compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicate that:
1. Among the 43.7 million adults age 18 or older with a mental illness in 2012, nearly 1 in 5 (19.2 percent) also met criteria for substance dependence or abuse.
2. In 2012, adults age 18 or older with a serious mental illness were more likely to smoke cigarettes in the past year than those who did not have a mental illness (45.4 vs. 25 percent).
Everyone can make a difference, from creating and maintaining a safe home environment where children feel comfortable sharing problems, to developing strategies to communicate publicly the importance of mental health and the value of preventive services, to training supervisors in the workplace to recognize signs of mental illness and refer people to services that can help.
Now we must ask ourselves, “What can we do?”
1. Parents and caregivers: Create a positive home environment by focusing on these key elements: a) create and maintain a safe and secure environment which includes making children feel valued and comfortable with sharing their problems; b) ensure positive educational experiences both at home and in school; c) be sure that you and your children communicate effectively and often; do not be afraid to talk to your child about the dangers of risky behaviors; and d) limit the presence of alcohol and cigarettes, and do not use illicit drugs.
2. Community leaders and organizations: By funding mental health-related programs and awareness initiatives, communities can proactively prevent behavioral health problems rather than waiting until these issues develop and treatment becomes the only option available. Communities can also develop strategies to publicly communicate the importance of mental health and the value of preventive services. Communities can support evidence-based promotion and prevention services for young children, adolescents and the caregivers of children with mental health issues.
3. Workplaces and employers: Weave information about mental health-friendly policies and resources into routine communications and special workplace events such as new employee orientations and banners. Institute training for supervisors about mental illnesses and how to supervise in ways that promote mental health and decrease discrimination toward employees with mental illnesses.
The mission of the GRAAB Coalition is to bring together concerned members and service providers of the community to facilitate lowering the misuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, as well as other addictive behaviors, in Bradley County, by providing effective education, recovery and support for youth, families and the community.
For more information on this topic, GRAAB programming or volunteer opportunities available from the GRAAB Coalition, call us at 423-472-5800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit our website for regular updates as well, www.graabcoalition.com.
(About the writer: Tanya Southerland is the executive director of Going Respectively Against Abusive Behaviors, a nonprofit organization in Cleveland and Bradley County that combats alcohol and drug abuse in this community. The organization is known by most as the GRAAB Coalition. In observation of National Prevention Week 2014, she is providing a series of guest “Viewpoints” on behalf of the GRAAB Coalition.)