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Q&A with Counsellor Vincent on Mental Health and Addiction

Posted: Tue Sep 29, 2020 5:53 pm
by Bamboo [facilitator]
When you have a substance abuse problem this can often co-occur with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. This can make the recovery process even more difficult as each have their own unique symptoms which can effect your daily life, activities and ability to function. People can also get into a cycle of using drugs or alcohol as a bandaid effect for temporary relief.

Alcohol and drug use can increase the risk of underlying mental health disorders. With this in mind we wanted to provide you the opportunity to ask our guest Counsellor Vincent questions you may have around drug and alcohol addiction and the impact it has on mental health. We will be keeping this Q&A open up until 7th October 2020 and Vincent will reply to your questions on the 8th October. To ask Vincent a question, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on 'post reply' type in your question then click submit :)


Vincent background:
Over the past 3 years I have put in the time to help support those that are affected by Alcohol/drugs as well as family members affected by a loved ones substance use. I understand the impact this can have on a person or a family's mental health and wellbeing.

We all have our own ways of coping, but it is when we develop unhealthy habits which can really impact our lives now and in the future. Theres always a chance to finally reach that goal of recovery, it is possible and every journey is different!


Image
(Pexels: Ketut Subiyanto)

Re: Q&A with Counsellor Vincent on Mental Health and Addiction

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2020 3:13 pm
by forest
Thanks so much to Vincent for taking the time to run this Q&A

I have a few of questions:

1. Do you tend to find that differing mental health diagnoses (e.g. depression, bi-polar, Borderline Personality Disorder, OCD, ADHD etc.) lend themselves to different preferences when it comes to substance use? If so, do you think this might sometimes be due to "self-medicating", where a person may not have access to or want to take prescribed medications (along with other therapies) which may help with the management of their mental health? Also, how might this be complicated by multiple/comorbid diagnoses?

2. What are some of your go-to tips for someone with mental health issues to stop a drug or alcohol binge before it starts? For example, are there any activities or exercises that someone with anxiety or depression can do to distract or ground themselves in an effort to avoid turning to substances?

3. How important do you think spreading harm reduction tips are for people who experience chronic/life-long mental health issues? Should we perhaps recognise that some people will always turn to substances to feel okay and that keeping these people safe and supported may be more beneficial than insisting they quit alcohol/drugs altogether?

4. What advice would you give to friends/family of people with mental health issues and substance use issues? How might they support these people while also practicing self-care?

Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge with us. I'm looking forward to your answers and would love to see some more questions from other forum members :)

Re: Q&A with Counsellor Vincent on Mental Health and Addiction

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2020 4:56 pm
by Chak
Hi Vincent,

According to Homelessness Australia almost 100% of homeless people suffer from mental health and at the same time they have any type of addiction. Having said that, what type of support they receive to overcome their addictions? and how the treatments for this group of people differ to non-homeless individuals without mental health problems?

What strategies can be adopted to reduce the risk for people with mental health to become homelessness?


Thank you.

Re: Q&A with Counsellor Vincent on Mental Health and Addiction

Posted: Tue Oct 06, 2020 1:34 pm
by Bamboo [facilitator]
We are getting some great questions for our Q&A :) Last chance to post your questions below as it will close tomorrow 7th October. Ask Counsellor Vincent any questions relating to the impact of Drug and Alcohol addiction on Mental Health. Answers will be posted up 8th October.

Re: Q&A with Counsellor Vincent on Mental Health and Addiction

Posted: Thu Oct 08, 2020 8:22 pm
by Bamboo [facilitator]
Hi everyone please see the answers below from Counsellor Vincent, we hope you find it helpful! :)
......

Hi everyone! ☺ Thankyou for all of your questions!

MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE USE

I have had many discussions with people suffering from a substance use issues along with mental health issues. Often they do go hand in hand, however which one comes first is difficult to determine. Many people do rely on substances as a way of self-medicating. Different substances provide different effects for different people. Some may have different preferences towards what substance helps give them that temporary alleviation. Some drugs are stimulants (creating higher energy levels such as amphetamines) and others are depressants (which slow our system down, some of these would be alcohol or even prescription medication). For example, many people suffering from Depression, anxiety, whether they’re general or complex can often lead to them drinking alcohol or smoking to help keep them calm, relaxed. Where as others feel they need that ‘energy boost’ so instead they may turn to drugs that give them that high feeling to help them feel more energised or happy. It’s a trap that many fall into and therefore becomes an ongoing toxic cycle. Think about it like this; if I was to fall and break my arm, the recommended course of action would be to go seek some help from a doctor for further guidance, however I have chosen to use a bandaid and hope that it would heal on its own, then keep replacing the bandaid each time it doesn’t work. This is not a long term solution and only allows the problem to persist.

That being said, in some cases the choice of substances can change depending on the person and whether they have had a pre-existing mental health issue. Generally speaking, it is different for everyone. There are many different reasons why people would try to avoid reaching out for help whether its for mental health reasons or substance addiction, some of these include; fear of possible stigma, unaware of the problem, fear of change and what that could lead to, unsure of what support is available or some simply may not be fully ready to change just yet.

LOOKING AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

There are many things a person can do to help look after their mental health without going down the path of using substances as that quick fix. If you find yourself struggling with your mental health try to think about what would help you at the immediate time, what you can say to yourself and what you can do. Engaging in self-care is something that we all forget about from time to time especially if we have an endless list of responsibilities or a busy schedule. So it’s important to keep on top of this. There’s no golden rule to self-care. Some people find exercise helpful, others try new hobbies or get back in touch with old hobbies, others find socialising with friends helpful, meditation, painting, reading, watching movies, the list can go on. However there are times where we struggle to engage in self-care and may need to consider some external support such as counselling. In this day and age, we often put a major focus on ‘thinking positively all the time’. Although positivity is helpful, when negative feelings come up we almost shame ourselves for feeling that way. We are human, negative thoughts and emotions are normal. This is where people fall into that ‘quick fix’ trap. Try to practice compassion for yourself, realise any unhealthy patterns arising.

COMPONENTS OF SUBSTANCE USE

Sometimes it’s difficult for some people to understand those who suffer from a substance use issue and often will look at it very surface level without considering the reasons why or how it developed. I often remind people that there are two components to alcohol/drug addiction, the first would be the physical dependence where the body craves it and the other is the mental dependence which is when we feel a trigger whether that be through thoughts or emotions. So it’s important to work with both of those and to figure out ways to reduce harm of the use. In my experience, some people have come out of detoxing numerous times and asking ‘Why isn’t this problem going away for me?” I then ask what triggered these relapses, often the answer would be “I felt very depressed and anxious” Or “I had a traumatic flashback”. This shows that most of the work comes from addressing the core of these issues so they don’t become potential triggers. Learning different coping strategies is key to help manage complicated emotions and responses. A counsellor can help support you through this process.

FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF AN AFFECTED OTHER

It can be quite a tough time for family or friends who have someone close to them struggling with their mental health/substance use. Sometimes when we see someone we love who is struggling we can experience a range of different emotions from sadness, helplessness even frustration. Our natural instinct is to jump in and help this person as much as we can. However it can become problematic when we turn a blind eye to our own mental health and wellbeing. If you are a family member or a close friend of someone struggling, it’s important to know what your limitations are in your role, what you are capable of doing to support this person, putting boundaries in place for yourself and also engaging in self-care where you can. I would also recommend doing regular check-ins with yourself, be mindful of your own wellbeing.

HOMELESSNESS AND SUBSTANCE USE

Homelessness can be widely misunderstood. It is something that can happen to anyone for a variety of reasons. Homelessness by definition is anyone with no fixed address. For people experiencing homelessness it can be a rather traumatic time. As humans we all have the right to feel safe and have access to food and shelter. According to research, due to the social exclusion and social isolation that many homeless people face, they are more likely to develop mental health issues and have a higher rate of substance addiction. Although people who face homelessness may not have the financial ability to seek help, services such as ‘Salvation Army’ and ‘Neami National’ aim to support people experiencing homelessness both with housing, mental health support and substance use support. To help minimise the risk of homelessness it’s important to aim for early intervention. Seek out support as early as possible.

RESOURCES:
https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/
https://www.neaminational.org.au/our-se ... elessness/
https://askizzy.org.au/