stigma

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.

Addiction Figures In The United States

addictionAlcohol and substance use disorder is a disease, a form of mental illness defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the U.S). Addiction is not up for debate any longer, people who misuse drugs and alcohol are not morally weak; instead, such people are struggling with a severe mental health disorder that requires treatment.

Synergy Group Services is committed to doing our part to help end the stigma that, for too long, hovers over people with use disorders. Decreasing stigma is perhaps the most effective way to encourage individuals to seek help and lead productive lives in recovery. There are options for people battling drug and alcohol addiction, but if people are fearful of experiencing social repercussions for seeking assistance they are less inclined to reach out for help. It is up to all of to do whatever we can to educate others about the nature of mental illness.

Perhaps the best way to accomplish such a feat it to make sure the general public has a better understanding of the prevalence of addiction in America. Some of our readers may find themselves in awe of the staggering rates of addiction in the U.S., especially the statistics about how few people manage to access care. The figures below are also a clear indication of the fact that a mental health disorder can touch anyone and that practically every family includes a member struggling with addiction.

Addiction Epidemic

addictionOver 20 million Americans suffer from addiction, yet only 1 in 10 receive treatment, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Of the 2.3 million Americans battling opioid use disorder in 2015, only 1.4 million people received any kind of treatment (i.e., MAT, detox, residential, or outpatient). Since alcohol is legal in the U.S., people often forget that many misuse it more than any other mind-altering substance. What’s more, alcohol is involved in significantly more premature deaths each year than opioids.

It’s likely that most of our readers have some knowledge about the dangers of prescription opioids and heroin. You have probably heard that 64,000 Americans fell victim to an overdose death in 2016 and that roughly 100 people die of an overdose each day in the U.S. Even though alcohol use and abuse is more pervasive than opioids, many people are not aware of the toll alcohol takes on society. For instance:

  • About half of liver disease deaths in the U.S. involve alcohol misuse.
  • An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually.
  • Alcohol is the third leading cause of premature death in America.
  • An estimated 15.1 million adults suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder, yet only 1.3 million adults (or less than 10%) received treatment.

The above figures, complements of ASAM, paint a pretty stark picture of alcohol and substance use in the U.S. At this time, the organization is hosting events across the country and online in observance of National Addiction Treatment Week. ASAM hopes to raise awareness about addiction being a disease and spread the message that evidence-based treatments are available. If you would like more information on how to get involved in this most vital task, please click here.

Addiction Treatment

If you are one of the millions of Americans struggling with alcohol or substance use disorder, Synergy Group Services can assist you in finding 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.

Addiction Stigma: Art of Recovery Film Festival

addictionAlcohol 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.

Addiction Treatment

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.

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