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