Huntington, 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.
Mental 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.
Alcohol and substance use disorders affect millions of Americans. No matter where one lives, people are suffering nearby. Regardless of what one’s substance of choice is, without addiction treatment their prospects are dismal. Whether alcohol takes its toll slowly, or opioids cut one’s life short overnight—there is nothing hopeful about active addiction. Everyone living in the United States has a vested interest in encouraging the afflicted to seek help, many of our readers have seen first-hand what untreated addiction can do to a person. Yet, some of you also know that encouraging someone does not necessarily mean they will seek help. Even if an addict can see where addiction will take them if they do not do something about it. Why?
As you can probably imagine, there are several reasons why someone would spurn treatment. A major reason is that some people have not had a low enough bottom. Others may just not want to stop, despite the horror that continued use entails. One of the more common reasons that a person battling addiction will give for not reaching out for help involves the stigma of the disease.
Unlike other debilitating health disorders that have no known cure, people with use disorders are typically looked at differently. Seeking help acknowledges that a problem exists, a disorder that most Americans have trouble understanding. There are countless people in this country who think that addicts and alcoholics lack willpower or a social code. Morally bankrupt is tossed around at times. However, science tells us a different story about reality.
Art of Recovery Film Festival
Addiction is a mental health disorder. People who are touched by the disease have little say in the matter. Yet, they can have a say in what is done about it, i.e., seeking addiction treatment and working a program of recovery. This a not up for debate. Which is why it is so important that the common stereotypes of addiction be debunked across every media platform, whether that be art, television or film. Doing so will help society exercise compassion rather than exclusion. Hope over fear.
There are two artists in recovery who are using their artistic talents to shatter the stigma of addiction, with the goal encouraging recovery. On July 7-9, 2017, Manny Mendez and Vic James will be hosting the first annual Art of Recovery Film Festival in Lake Worth, Florida.
“Our Festival runs July 7-9th 2017 at the Stonzek Theater, adjacent to the historical Lake Worth Playhouse in Lake Worth Fl. This 3-day festival highlights films that focus on sober living and recovery.”
For more information on how you can be a part of this important event, please click here.
At Synergy Group Services, we are committed to being a part of putting an end to the harmful stigmas often attached to alcohol and substance use disorders. Or any other form of mental illness for that matter. If you are in the grips of active addiction, or have a co-occurring mental health disorder—we can help. Recovery is possible, together.
A couple weeks ago we wrote to inform you that September is National Recovery Month. We encouraged you to share your story, with the hope of encouraging others who are still living in addiction to seek help. For those of you who choose to do so, we at Synergy Group Services commend you for your courage. We know how hard it is to talk about one’s past, and what it took to find recovery, but please know that the more we open up about addiction and the fact that it does not discriminate—the more we chip away at the stigma of mental health disorders.
There is a good chance that your story resonated with someone who is in dire straits, desperately needing addiction treatment services. People often continue active drug and alcohol use for years after they determine that their substance abuse has become problematic. It is a behavior that is typical of anyone with an untreated mental illness. And sadly, millions of people fail to ever get the help they need and find the path of recovery. There are a number of reasons why a person will shy away from seeking assistance, but one of the major reasons is the stigma associated with being identified as an alcoholic or drug addict.
For those who have been in recovery for a number of years, it is likely that some will say that they are proud to be in recovery. And that without the dark times of their addiction, they may not have ever found the beautiful gifts that they have today. To be certain, those living with mental illness have nothing more to be ashamed about than any other person living with a form of chronic illness that requires continued maintenance.
It is unfortunate that many people feel shamed into keeping mute about their mental health problems. Those who are unable to get the help they need will sometimes make choices that cannot be undone, such as choosing suicide. What’s even sadder is the fact that mental health treatments today are light years ahead of what they use to be. It is possible to manage the symptoms of one’s mental illness and live a relatively normal—productive life.
The month of September is also Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) highlights the fact that, “suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people and is often the result of mental health conditions that affect people when they are most vulnerable.”
Throughout the course of the month, NAMI would like everyone to help “promote awareness of suicide prevention resources and promote discussion of suicide prevention awareness. On social media you can share the image below, using #suicideprevention or #StigmaFree.
Do 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:
- Anxiety Disorder (i.e. PTSD, OCD and Phobias)
- Bipolar Disorder
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?
- Take the Pledge to Be #StigmaFree
- Record your Video
- Upload it to your YouTube channel and other social media accounts.
- 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