Archives for Substance Abuse
Today's post is Part 2 on how to help kids who have a parent with a mental illness. In Part 1, we discussed how kids think about and react to having an ill parent. This post will address how to talk with kids when their Mom or Dad has a mental illness, and provide helpful resources. Talking with kids about mental illness Experts recommend that you address these main topics with kids when Mom or Dad have a mental illness: What is it?, Will I get it?, and Will Mom/Dad get better?: Obviously, this will take a little research on your part ahead of time so that you can accurately answer your child's questions. It is okay to say, "I don't know, but I will find out," instead of lying, stretching the truth, or ignoring your child's question if you aren't sure of the answer. See the next topic for more on that...
When a parent is mentally ill, children are often confused, scared, angry, and/or worried. Depending on their ages, how long the parent has been symptomatic, and experiences with Mom or Dad being sick, children need appropriate levels of education and support. Children of parents with mental illness are at risk a range of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, alcoholism, and personality disorders. In this two-part blog, we'll first look at how kids perceive, react to, and think about having a parent with a mental illness. In Part 2, we'll discuss how to best help kids and offer resources.
It's no secret that health insurance is expensive, and paying for mental health services can be outrageous as well. When you and your partner have a large pile of bills to pay, it can make a difficult decision to forgo mental health appointments and psychiatric medications appear--on the surface--to be easier. No money = No care, no meds. Period. End of story. Right? Unfortunately, you and your partner may have already discovered what happens when mental health treatment is stopped abruptly. Or if you are considering this possibility, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. The ramifications of not getting appropriate treatment go much further than just a depressed mood or anxious thoughts and feelings. It could result in an untimely death.
Bringing up the topic of a partner's mental illness with family and friends can feel tricky. In some cases, it might be obvious that there is something wrong, but many mental illnesses can't be detected from the outside. However, that doesn't mean you and your partner don't need and deserve support from understanding family and friends. Asking for that support can feel uncomfortable, though, given the stigma that still exists around mental illness, and cultural perceptions that we should keep personal problems to ourselves.
Jim's drinking was clearly out of control...he had been up for over 24 hours, and the beer bottles lying around numbered over thirty. Yet he refuses to see a counselor, saying that he "doesn't have a problem and doesn't need help!" Jane's mother, Sally, age 76, can barely make her way through her own house because of the clutter and items she has accumulated. Jane is concerned for her mother's safety, but Sally will not allow Jane to clean the house or throw anything away. The more Jane insists, the stronger Sally's resistance. It's gotten to the point where Sally has told Jane she is not welcome to visit anymore, and Jane cannot figure out how to help. Josh has not been feeling like himself for a long time now: he lost his job six months ago and his girlfriend of two years broke up with him a few weeks ago. He's finding himself sleeping through the day and staying up all night, gaming online and looking at porn. He knows he should be job hunting, but really, he doesn't care anymore. He's lost 20 pounds, and when he does see his friends, they are shocked at the changes. But when they ask questions, Josh blows them off and says, "I'm fine." All three of these people are great candidates for therapy, but none of them will go. Why?
The American Psychological Association released its annual Stress in America report earlier this month, and the findings were clear: those caring for people who are aging and/or chronically ill (including those having a mental illness) are under more stress than the average American. According to estimates from the National Alliance for Caregiving, 65.7 million Americans served as caregivers for an ill or disabled relative in the past year. Not only that, caregivers reported that they are less successful in making changes that could improve their quality of life, such as eating well, exercising, managing stress, and getting enough sleep. If you read this blog regularly, you know that I often reinforce the importance of these strategies, but the results show this is still difficult to put into practice.
You may have told your partner during your time together that he or she is "one in a million," but if they also have a mental illness, they are more like 1 in 5 Americans, according to a recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). According to the report: A new national report reveals that 45.9 million American adults aged 18 or older, or 20 percent of this age group, experienced mental illness in the past year. The rate of mental illness was more than twice as high among those aged 18 to 25 (29.9 percent) than among those aged 50 and older (14.3 percent). Adult women were also more likely than men to have experienced mental illness in the past year (23 percent versus 16.8 percent). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health also shows that 11.4 million adults (5 percent of the adult population) suffered from serious mental illness in the past year. Serious mental illness is defined as one that resulted in serious functional impairment, which substantially interfered with or limited one or more major life activities. As the well partner, what does this mean for you?
First off, let's define "ACOA" for those who don't recognize the acronym: Adult Children of Alcoholics. Is your partner one of them? Being an ACOA does not mean your partner has a mental illness, but the effects of having an alcoholic parent can greatly affect your partner's mental health, especially if the parent is still abusing alcohol (or other substances...addiction does not discriminate!) The effects of parental substance abuse are far-reaching and often last for the adult child's entire life. As a child, your partner may have had the following characteristics:
Drug abuse doesn't just happen with illegal substances like heroin and cocaine. It can happen with any kind of medication, including over the counter and prescription meds. Any time a medication is used for something other than what was intended, it is being misused. It can be very easy to justify the use of meds for alleviating symptoms-- especially if you already have the medications in the house--but it's also all too easy to cross the line from occasional use to dependence and abuse. With psychotropic medications (those prescribed for mental illnesses), the risk of abuse is even higher, as some of those medications are not meant for long-term use and are easy to become dependent on. This happens commonly with anti-anxiety meds, such as clonazepam (Klonopin®) or alprazolam (Xanax®). On the other hand, your partner may not be abusing their prescription meds, but instead using alcohol or marijuana as another means to alleviate their pain, whether that pain is physical or mental. Substance abuse and psychiatric illness--especially for people with anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia--often go hand-in-hand. Your partner may be trying to self-medicate in order to relieve their symptoms, but mixing alcohol with prescription medications can be a deadly combination. Medications that are sedatives, such as those prescribed for anxiety or sleep, combined with large amounts of alcohol, can result in your partner's breathing and heart rate to slow to the point of stopping.