The Canadian Mental Health Association has announced Mental Health Week in Canada May 2 – 8, 2016, underscoring the fact that many Canadians still do not understand exactly what mental health is, or how they are affected by it. In the past, conventional wisdom was that people were either ‘normal’ or else they were ‘other’ – they had some kind of mental illness that prevented them from functioning ‘normally’, and so they should be avoided and stigmatized. The subject was not talked about very much in most circles until more common disorders such as depression were identified as being, in fact, mental illness. Slowly, some of the stigma surrounding mental health issues has begun to ease.
Today, we know a lot more about mental health, yet there are still big gaps in our knowledge: its causes, how to treat it, how to conduct ourselves with those who identify with a mental health issue. It will come as a shock to some people reading this, that drug and alcohol addiction is considered a mental health issue. Many who struggle with substance abuse would not dream of self-identifying as having mental illness, yet such is the medical diagnosis. Much as we have thrown out the old idea of an alcoholic as someone living on a park bench, or an addict as a criminal who lived on the streets, we must also redefine what it means to have a mental health issue in 2016.
Mental Health = Mental Wellbeing
If we shift our definitions and mental pictures to look at mental health as not an absence of something, but instead as a sense of wellbeing, it starts to make sense why addiction falls under the mental health umbrella. Good mental health means:
• Feeling well
• Being able to cope with challenges
• Being able to achieve our personal goals
Obviously, alcohol and/or drug abuse can severely interfere with all three of these objectives. In that sense, addiction is very much a mental health problem in that just like mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, addiction can result in distress and impairment.
The High Cost of Addiction
One of the reasons drug and alcohol addiction, as well as other types of addiction, have been brought into the forefront of the mental health conversation is the incredible cost to society of such disorders. The cost to the individual has long been clear: addiction can seriously compromise, if not destroy, such things as careers, opportunities, family, health, freedom, and even life itself. However, the cost to society as a whole is only now being fully discovered as research reveals the extent and pervasiveness of addiction in Canada.
Mental health problems cost the Canadian economy approximately $51 billion per year and cause a shocking half-million Canadians to stay home from work each week. Since substance abuse disorder ranks #2 among the medically diagnosed mental illnesses in Canada, with 1 in 10 Canadians living with the disorder, it’s fair to say that addiction is responsible for a sizeable amount of this lost revenue, since 70 percent of drug or alcohol abusers are employed. This large portion of the workforce rendered unable to fully contribute is just a shadow of the larger problem – a large percentage of Canadians living in distress in all aspects of their lives, due to drug or alcohol addiction.
There is Help for People Suffering from Addiction
As a Toronto rehab centre committed to guiding men and women struggling with substance abuse into new lives of contented, permanent sobriety, Renascent is pleased to help bring the serious issue of addiction and mental health to the forefront. If you, an employee, friend, family member, or someone else you know is struggling with addiction, we are here to help. Browse through our website to find out more.