Monday, October 4, 2010

Mental Illness Awareness Week - by Mom

"Across the country, NAMI advocates are gearing up for Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) 2010, which takes place October 3-9, to educate the public about serious mental illnesses like major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia."

One of the diseases that has impacted my family is "Dual Diagnosis of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Disorder". Dual diagnosis is when 2 things are occurring at the same time, a mental illness such as depression or bipolar disease along with substance abuse, either alcohol and/or drugs.

A surprising number of people are affected by this disorder. The numbers below were determined in the early 1990's, and further studies have not been published.

"According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA):

•Roughly 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse.
•Thirty-seven percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
•Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29 percent abuse either alcohol or drugs."

Due to these concurrent diseases, it is difficult to treat. Which do you treat first? Often only one of the diseases is detected, and the other ignored. A dual approach to treating these illnesses must be taken.For example, counseling and medication for the mental illness, and programs such as AA or NA for the substance abuse. It has been shown that if a patient successfully conquers the alcohol abuse, then the mental illness is exponentially easier to treat.

This brief synopsis of the dual-disorder is just meant to remind people of the many facets of mental illness and is not meant to be a complete description of the disease. All quotes are taken from the NAMI site.

Our Family's Story
Our cousins' family has been known to suffer depression and bipolar illness. The oldest son became addicted to cocaine and alcohol and was placed in a treatment facility. I am not familiar with this facility, but I could guess that either he wasn't given meds or was noncompliant with his meds. He called one night and talked for an hour nonstop - a sure symptom of hypomania. Folks with bipolar disease often are noncompliant since they miss the "highs" of their disease.

The cousin hooked up with a girl who was on her 3rd rehab. Shortly after release, he started drinking and drugging again. Within a year after getting out of rehab, he hung himself in his apartment closet. His whole family have become hard drinkers, and have moved to New Zealand to escape.

This is just an example of the devastating issues with a dual diagnosis disease, and I am sure most families have similar ones. I just want to remind all that treatment is easy, but denial can have devastating and far reaching effects.


  1. Oh my dear furriends, I wish I knew what to say. It's so sad. *softpaw*

  2. thanks you for sharing this Maggie's mom, its so sad and often humanz duzn't even know or unnastand when other humanz iz depressed, teh way us anipals do.

  3. Mom knew right away the probable path this cousin would take the first time she met him. she knew he was in denial even though he knew he life was shit. The first step is to admit you are powerless over your addiction. he couldn't do that, let alone admit there was a mental illness on both sides of family. She wrote a 10 page letter detailing stuff. She tried. He ignored.

    Suicide is the ending of a person's pain, not killing themselves. they are not selfish. There just is no other way for them. Living hurts too much. It is horrible for the ones who are left. But, they, too, were in denial about the severity.

    It isn't that I'm not compassionate. It is a sad waste to see the truth and ignore it.

  4. Thank you so much for this post dear friend. My grandfather abused alochol to the point where he would beat his wife up, and one time I witnesses him taking a butcher knife threatening to kill her. It was frightening to see at the age of 10. Now that I'm older and wiser, I know that he had a mental illness to go with it. Being in denial is the worst & hard on the family (unless they too are in denial). We are so fortunate in the year 2010 that more information is available on these subjects, more help for those who want it, and it isn't anything to be embarrassed about like it used to be years ago. My family's way of dealing with it (as was often the case back then) was "just don't talk about it." Thank you for "daring" to broach a very needed topic.

  5. Good post, Mom. Thank you, and I'm so sorry about your cousin and his family. =^..^=

  6. Wonderful posting Mom! We are our brother's keeper and must not miss an opportunity to lend support or to intervene to get someone help; It is real and needs to be addressed.

    Looking at it another way, guilt can kill; You cannot go through life feeling guilty or one's life is wasted. Instead, if one is able to, help or listen to someone that is hurting; keeping in mind that it isn't always visible.