mental health

Mental Health Month in America: Let’s Cure Stigma

mental healthMay is finally underway which means the horizon of summer nears closer and closer, thankfully. At Synergy Group Services, we hope that you were able to participate in National Addiction Treatment Week, even if it was a short little post on your social media account; sharing a fact or words of encouragement can generate enormous ripples. Those who have come through the other side of active addiction are living embodiments of the programs’ power. Your compassion towards those still suffering can be the spark that lights the torch of another’s recovery.

Treatment Week is over, but that doesn’t mean we stop working to end the stigma of mental illness that prevents millions around the globe from seeking treatment. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), stigma prevents the 1 in 5 Americans with mental health conditions from seeking help. When you consider that 60 million people in the United States are living with any form of mental illness, stigma is standing in the way of millions of people’s recovery. But, it doesn’t need to be; together, those in recovery and not can change the narrative about mental health conditions and guide countless individuals toward recovery.

Perhaps you are already aware that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? If not, this is a perfect opportunity to help organizations like NAMI and Mental Health America raise awareness of mental health and support changing society’s perception of debilitating brain diseases. Throughout the course of the month events are going on across the country; hopefully, you will find time to take part. If not, you can utilize social media; when efficiently wielded, the internet is a powerful weapon for fighting stigma.

Mental Health and Curing Stigma

NAMI has set its sights on helping the general public better understand stigma and the impact it can have on those living with mental illness. Given how pervasive stigma is, it is not uncommon for individuals to know they are contributing to the problem. With that in mind, NAMI offers a short quiz that everyone can take to determine if stigma has infected them, please take a moment to take the test and be part of the cure. As an aside, some people in recovery may have views about mental illness that are not in line with the facts; stigma can be an internal feeling confusing “feeling bad” with “being bad.” The point is, addressing the virus of stigma is vital for all of us.

Effective ways to work the problem and be the solution:

  • Examine your own behavior before judging others.
  • Stigma may not directly affect you, but it prevents others from seeking help.
  • Be an ally to people with mental health conditions.
  • There’s no cure for mental health conditions, but we can cure stigma.
  • Take the test, find out if you need to make some adjustments.

Please take a moment to watch a short video:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If you are one of the millions of Americans struggling with alcohol, substance use disorder, and co-occurring mental illness, Synergy Group Services can assist you in your recovery. Please contact Synergy today to learn more about our programs.

Eliminating Mental Health Stigma Through Art

stigmaMental health stigma isn’t good for anyone, let alone society. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe struggle with mental illness in any given year, yet most will never receive any form of treatment. One of the reasons for this, aside from severe deficiencies in accessing therapy, is that many of those afflicted are unwilling to discuss their condition for fear of reproach. With no other form of health condition are feelings of shame so pervasive, as is the case for people with disorders like depression and addiction.

As with any systemic societal problem, it falls on everyone to affect change. The people who have a fear of discussing their mental health disorders are, in fact, our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. Every family is touched by mental illness in some way; the more extended society ostracizes such conditions, the more prolonged people’s suffering will endure. If a person feels they cannot talk about a problem, they are more likely to resort to dangerous methods of coping, such as drugs, alcohol, and suicide.

Fortunately, a significant number of individuals have committed to help end the stigma of mental illness. In the U.S., the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Drug Policy Alliance come to mind; organizations dedicated to helping, not hurting people who’ve suffered enough already.

Eliminate Mental Health Stigma

Those in recovery from any mental illness are aware that those afflicted often have a penchant for artistic creation. It’s likely that many of your favorite artists, musicians, and writers struggle with mental health conditions. Some of our readers working programs of recovery are artists. Might there be a correlation between mental illness and a propensity for abstraction? Nevertheless, one organization would like to use your artistic creations to end the stigma of mental illness.

The Perspective Project invites artists to submit artwork containing honest and compelling accounts of mental health issues. On the website, new artwork is accessible every Sunday and throughout the week via social media.​

“Everyone’s lives, including ours at The Perspective Project, have been touched by mental health. You are not alone in your suffering. In the fight against mental health stigma, empathy and acceptance are our most powerful allies.”

The organization accepts all forms of art for submission, including painting, photography, writing, and poetry. If you would like to submit your work, click here.

“The Perspective Project provides a blank canvas for those who wish to discuss mental health issues. Your Story. Your Art. Your Poetry. Your Mental Health. Your Perspective.”

Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment

If you are one of the millions of Americans struggling with untreated addiction or a use disorder accompanied by a dual diagnosis, please contact Synergy Group Services. Recovery is possible, but a person’s addiction and co-occurring mental health disorder need simultaneous treatment. Every time an individual makes the courageous choice to seek help, the stigma of mental illness erodes.

Addiction: Changing Reward-Motivated Behavior

addictionAll of us make hundreds, if not thousands of decisions every day of the week. Most decisions are, for the most part, inconsequential. Such as which TV show you decide to watch tonight, or which route you will take on your daily jog. But there are some decisions that we make that can have grave outcomes, especially if you are in recovery for addiction.

Addiction is a mental health disorder that is typified by making decisions that result in actions that are damaging to one’s health. Even when one is aware that their decisions are in fact harmful, the reward or the expectation of some kind of reward (i.e. euphoria) is often enough to counter an alternative choice. Try as one might, breaking the cycle of addiction is extremely difficult and often times requires the assistance of detox and substance use disorder treatment centers. With the right tools and coping skills in place, one can avoid relapse down the road.

Reward-Motivated Behavior

In everyone’s brain there are several organic chemicals that act as neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine and dopamine. When it comes to the latter, dopamine plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. And, it turns out that dopamine, and manipulating the level of dopamine in the brain could actually alter the decisions people make, Salk Institute reports. The findings from a study published in the journal Neuron, could have serious implications in treating people who have difficulty putting a stop to repetitive actions, like addicts and alcoholics.

The researchers say that by measuring the level of dopamine right before a decision, gives them [researcher] the ability to predict the outcome with accuracy, according to the report. In rodent models, the research team was able to alter the animals’ dopamine levels in the brain, using a process called optogenetics. The technique activates or inhibits neurons with light, thus increasing or decreasing dopamine levels, giving researchers the ability to dictate the choices the rodents made. Xin Jin, an assistant professor in Salk’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory and the paper’s senior author, said:

“We think that if we could restore the appropriate dopamine dynamics—in Parkinson’s disease, OCD and drug addiction—people might have better control of their behavior. This is an important step in understanding how to accomplish that.”

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction

Addiction is a mental health disorder; one that is progressive in nature. Every bad habit starts with a decision to do something. Such options, overtime move away from the realm of a choice and into the realm of need. Mind altering substances in effect rewire how you process and decide to do things, which is why one can make decisions that you know could be fatal—without having ideations of suicide.

Treating addiction is a process involving both time and hard work in order regain one’s ability to make decisions in one’s best interest. Without making a serious commitment to alter the course of one’s life, utilizing the support of a recovery program, the ends are typically the same. At Synergy Group Services our holistic treatment program is designed to draw from many evidence based therapeutic processes giving each individual access to the modalities that will be most effective for them. Blending evidence-based practices addresses the entire person, including their mind, body, and spirit.

Cures Act Funds Addiction Treatment

addiction treatmentAt this point, now in the seventeenth year of the most insidious drug epidemic the world has ever seen, many Americans are starting to think that the crisis may never be curtailed. It is a shared feeling, despite the fact that we know what is needed, greater access to addiction treatment. To be sure, there are thousands of addiction treatment facilities throughout the country, centers helping people break the cycle of addiction 365 days a year. Yet there are many Americans who need treatment the most, that are unable to access such programs. Those who do have a shot at getting a bed often have to wait well over a month for it, and in a number of cases that is dangerously long given the deadly nature of opioids.

Realizing that Americans are being forced to wait needlessly for treatment, there has been a huge push within the Federal government to increase funding for addiction treatment services throughout the country. It was a push that resulted in the passing of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA), a bill specifically designed to combat the American opioid epidemic, including provisions for:

  • Expanding Access to Treatment
  • Increasing Access to Naloxone
  • Distributing Clean Needles
  • Education and Prevention Efforts

Unfortunately, there may not be enough funding to ensure that all the aforementioned initiatives are achieved. CARA was widely hailed as a perfect example of bipartisan governing, yet if it fails to accomplish what it was designed for then it is irrelevant. However, there may be hope yet for millions of Americans who are in need of treatment.

Congress approved the 21st Century Cures Act, new legislation that could channel $1 billion in new funding over the next two years for opioid addiction prevention and treatment programs, USA Today reports. On top of that, the Cures Act could fortify existing mental health parity laws, forcing insurers to cover mental illness the same way they would any other health condition.

“For far too long Americans suffering with mental illness have been stigmatized and left in the shadows,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla. “This bill helps stop Americans from falling through the cracks.”

Click here to watch a short video on the subject.

#StigmaFree: Mental Health Month 2016

mental health monthDo you know someone living with a mental illness? Perhaps you do, and is it someone close to you, i.e., family member or friend? The chances are that you probably do and, even if you do not, you can help them this May by taking part in Mental Health Month. Unfortunately, even in the enlightened times we find ourselves living, there are still stigmas surrounding mental health disorders—illnesses which include:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety Disorder (i.e. PTSD, OCD and Phobias)
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is urging people to harness the power and reach out on their social media platforms for educating others, raise awareness and end the stigma of mental illness with hope. They ask that you take the pledge to be #StigmaFree this #MentalHealthMonth. While approximately 1 in 5 American adults experience some form of mental illness in a given year, less than 41 percent of them receive any form of mental health service, according to NAMI.

Mental illness that is left unchecked by therapy and medication can quickly spiral out of control—often times ending in tragedy. We can all have a hand in encouraging the afflicted to seek help for their illness without fear of being shamed. Recovering from mental health disorders is possible—people can lead normal and productive lives free from disgrace. But, in order for that to come to fruition, it involves a societal effort.

So, What Can You Do to help?

  1. Take the Pledge to Be #StigmaFree
  2. Record your Video
  3. Upload it to your YouTube channel and other social media accounts.
  4. Include #StigmaFree in the Title

Perhaps you have a story of your own that you would like to share with others who are still severely impacted by a mental illness. What you went through may empower others to seek the help they so desperately need. Let them know that they are not alone, share your voice.

“We know that mental illness is not something that happens to other people. It touches us all. Why then is mental illness met with so much misunderstanding and fear?” – Tipper Gore

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