mental illness

Relapse Prevention Via Smartphone

relapseIn the smartphone-dependent world, we find ourselves; there is an app for just about everything. While it’s fair to say that most applications have little real-life value, some programmers are designing apps that help people who are struggling with mental illness. In fact, there are significant swaths of people in recovery from mental health disorders, including addiction, which use smartphone apps to connect with other individuals for support. Given that a statistically significant percentage of Americans live in rural parts of the country having the ability to communicate with a broader community of people in recovery is invaluable, possibly preventing a relapse.

There are several applications that men and women turn to for guidance and support; Talkspace for instance, connects users with licensed therapists who specialize in anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Ginger.io offers emotional support coaching, therapy, and psychiatry for individuals living with mental illness; the app connects such people with therapists 24/7.

One aspect that makes Ginger standout is that it utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to suggest treatments, The Daily Beast reports. It turns out that AI is likely going to be the future of mental health support applications; the tech can go further than merely offering sound advice, AI can predict a relapse before it happens. The implications of AI in the field of recovery, where the stakes are often life and death, is enormous.

Sober Community

Working a program of addiction recovery requires steadfast dedication; the potential for slipping up and returning to active use is high, especially early in the journey. Community, and being a part of one, actually serves to safeguard one’s recovery. Those who stick close to their support network are more likely to make progress. However, there are often scenarios when people in recovery relapse and it comes as a surprise to the group. An individual appears to be doing the work, attending meetings, and so-on-and-so-forth. Then one day, a meeting commences, and such-and-such is not in the room.

Addiction is a severe form of mental illness; those living with mental health disorders like an addiction sometimes refer to it as being cunning, baffling, and powerful. While an individual is taking steps to maintain sobriety, the disease is in the next room devising a plan to get back into the spotlight. Although, there are often signs, cues that are somewhat ubiquitous regarding the nature of relapse. Those who’ve been sober for a while can often spot someone on the edge of relapse; meanwhile, the person about to slip up hasn’t an idea of what the future holds. In some cases, an “old timer” might approach a recovery novice and suggest some changes to avert a problem; but, it is impossible to prevent every such scenario.

Relapse Prevention

One support app that is for people in addiction recovery is Sober Grid, the company’s website calls it, “a free peer support network right in your pocket to aid you in your recovery.” Sober Grid is similar to Facebook, and it connects people in all stages of recovery. The application came about in 2015 and is now part of more than 120,000 people’s lives. As with any app, there is a multitude of user data; developers could determine if a user had had an incident, i.e., relapse. Which led to a significant question, could those on the brink of decline be identified, and if so, could the app help prevent such an occurrence? According to Dr. Brenda Curtis at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, absolutely; relapses could be predicted using AI and potentially thwarted.

“The words people use reflect who they are (e.g., their personality) and how they feel (e.g., happy, depressed, stressed, relaxed). People using Sober Grid post messages and indicate the number of days they have been sober. We then build statistical models to predict sobriety or relapse from the frequencies with which words are used,” offered Lyle Unger, a professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-investigator on the project.

When the algorithm spots signs of relapse on the horizon, Chris Pesce, COO of Sober Grid, says providing extra support to the user could spare them of such an event, according to the article. He says the app can digitally deliver the tools that addiction therapists know help people on the verge of returning to active substance use. If users opt-in to the program, Sober Grid would instantly connect them with coaches; time is not a luxury when it comes to preventing a relapse.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If you are 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.

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.

Heroin(e) Documentary Inspires Hope

heroinHuntington, West Virginia, is home to around 50,000 people and has an overdose rate ten times the national average. You may be familiar with the town for personal reasons, or perhaps you’ve seen the documentary “Heroin(e)” on Netflix. With the 90th Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday, maybe you’ll have some time to give the documentary a watch beforehand. “Heroin(e)” is nominated for the best documentary (short subject) Oscar.

Some might call Huntington the epicenter of the American opioid addiction epidemic; maybe the statement is true, what is sure, that the situation in the former industrial town is reflective of much of rural America. The Appalachian region is losing mothers and fathers and sons and daughters at unbelievable scale; it is a reality that “Heroin(e)” director, Elaine McMillion Sheldon (“Hollow,” 2013), would much like to drive home.

The scope and scale of the epidemic have no parallel; solutions hardly seem in sight at this juncture. One of the biggest deterrents to tackling the epidemic is the way most Americans continue to view addiction. The stigma of mental illness is alive and well, it’s a fact that Sheldon understands.

Opioid Epidemic Heroin(es)

The short documentary released last September follows the lives of three women in Huntington; including a fire chief, a drug-court judge, and a street missionary. Sheldon chose the three human subjects for the doc, she tells Business Insider, because the three women treat people battling addiction as “human beings and not as junkies.”

Sheldon, a native West Virginia, wanted to tell a different kind of story about the epidemic—one that places a greater focus on the people trying to help. Plenty of documentaries center on the use and abuse side of the epidemic, “Heroin(e)” shows how selfless individuals are affecting change in their community. Compassion is a powerful tool; it can help alter the course of peoples’ lives for the better. The Peabody Award-winning director said:

“We wanted to try and find a story that was around solutions and the inner-resilience that people have to overcome this problem.”

Sheldon is hopeful that politicians will watch her film and see what real people are going through and shape policy decisions off of reality. Her lengthy interview with Business Insider is worth a full read if you have the time, especially her thoughts about misconceptions surrounding addiction. She concedes that a byproduct of the opioid epidemic is that nobody can see that it is “those people” doing the drugs and ruining their lives; rich and poor, young and old, black or white, rural or metropolitan—all are eligible for addiction and premature death if they don’t get help. Please take a moment to watch the trailer below:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Netflix has made “Heroin(e)” available for educational streaming unlimited. Movie theaters can screen the film as many times as they like as long as they don’t charge admission.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

If you are one of the millions of Americans grappling with opioid use disorder, please contact Synergy Group Services. We can help you overcome the cycle of addiction and give you the tools for living a life of lasting addiction recovery.

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.

PTSD: A Common Co-Occurring Disorder

PTSDThe field of addiction medicine falls under the umbrella of mental health. Both alcohol and substance use disorders have a home In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). At this point, to call addiction something other than a mental health disorder would be erroneous. Substance use disorders have a debilitating effect on people’s lives in the same ways as anxiety, depression, bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

With that in mind, it is always worth reiterating how common it is in our field to treat patients who do not only have problems with drugs and alcohol, they also have a co-occurring mental illness. What is often referred to as a dual diagnosis. While it’s important to acknowledge the occurrence of two or more disorders affecting one person, it is even more salient to treat the various disorders at the same time. Treating one, while neglecting the other, is typically a recipe for relapse.

In many cases, the symptoms of conditions like depression or PTSD lead people down an ineluctable path to addiction. Coping with untreated mental illness is trying, to be sure; and drugs and alcohol can keep some of one’s symptoms at bay—for a time. However, continued substance use for self-medication, actually makes the symptoms worse. What’s more, over time dependence develops and an alcohol or substance use disorder. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it is more prevalent than you’d might think.

At Synergy Group Services our goal is always to address both the addiction and any other form of mental illness that may be present. In many cases, clients don’t even know they meet the criteria for such disorders, which is why screening is of the utmost importance early on in treatment. For those who do know that have a mental health disorder, and are self-medicating the symptoms, it is vital that we all do our part to encourage them to seek help before the matter becomes even more dire.

PTSD Awareness Month

The paradox about mental illness is the fact that people living with it need help more than anything, yet they resist treatment for several reasons. One of the greatest obstacles to seeking help that they face is the stigma that hovers over brain diseases. Seeking help acknowledges that one has a problem, and fearing what other people will think or say can be debilitating. It is paramount that everyone working in the field, those who’ve sought treatment and are in recovery and the general public do what they can to show compassion. Making people feel comfortable when talking about their symptoms will give them the motivation to seek help.

Every June is PTSD Awareness Month, a time to encourage people to get a better understanding of the condition, including the symptoms and treatments which have proven to be effective. By doing so, more people will be inclined to reach out for help. And not just veterans, everyone who has been touched by serious trauma.

“Greater understanding and awareness of PTSD will help Veterans and others recognize symptoms, and seek and obtain needed care.” – Dr. Paula P. Schnurr, Executive Director of the National Center for PTSD.

Please take a moment to watch a short PSA:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment

Our dual diagnosis treatment facility is fully equipped to help you or a loved one begin the process of recovery from both addiction and co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Please reach out for help today. Those who have successfully completed our program have had great outcomes, going on to live fulfilling productive lives in recovery.

Back to top