How National Recovery Month Can Help Break the Stigma

How National Recovery Month Can Help Break the Stigma

National Recovery Month helps inform the public about addiction while helping to dispel the stigmas surrounding it

Hope for recovery comes from within, and it also comes from community, family and professional support. When one of these elements is missing, recovery is still more than possible, but it becomes more challenging. National Recovery Month helps break stigmas surrounding mental health and addiction issues so that those in need of help are better able to find hope, help and support at all levels and are therefore better able to find recovery.

What Is National Recovery Month?

National Recovery Month is a month set aside by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration[1] (SAMHSA) to increase awareness, reduce stigma and take proactive steps towards mental health and addiction treatment and prevention. It occurs every September, and SAMHSA, “sponsors National Recovery Month to increase awareness of behavioral health conditions. This observance promotes the belief that behavioral health is essential to health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover from mental and/or substance use disorders.” The goal of National Recovery Month is to provide hope, hope backed by science and professional treatment. Mental health and addiction issues are real, and they are real diseases. They are also treatable diseases. Spreading awareness helps reduce stigma, and reduced stigma helps individuals who are struggling speak up and get help.

The Problem with Stigma

Stigma is one of the largest stumbling blocks in effective identification, treatment and understanding of addiction. Addiction[2] explains that because of stigma, “people with this condition are more likely to be perceived as having personal control over their illness and, therefore, are more likely to be held responsible and blamed. This system of beliefs (i.e. causal attributions) affects the social response to substance use disorders (e.g. anger, avoidance, coercion, punishment) and can influence how people with substance use disorders view themselves.” Public attitude toward addiction influences policy and it influences individual attitudes towards addiction and treatment. When the public views addiction as a moral failing, individuals are more likely to keep their substance use secret. They tend to blame themselves and internalize false assumptions made by others. They are more likely to deny a problem, and they are less willing or able to seek the professional help essential for recovery. As The Fix[3] explains, “If we removed the stigma, guilt and shame from the equation, people would find it easier to make a realistic, objective assessment of their substance misuse and discuss it openly with a health care provider.” Reducing stigma makes accessing treatment simpler. It means more professionals choose to pursue careers in mental health care and that individuals and families have access to high-quality and effective treatment programs. National Recovery Month works to improve quality of care. It reduces stigma through public outreach, events and more. It brings communities together, and it brings those who struggle together so that they can find the support and understanding essential to beginning and continuing work toward recovery.

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Breaking the Stigma Brings People Together

Addiction is not an individual disease, and recovery is not an individual effort. Stigma keeps both those with substance abuse problems and the communities they live in suffering in silence and without answer. Breaking the stigma increases information and awareness and provides real options for treatment and prevention. SAMHSA explains, “Mental and/or substance use disorders affect millions of Americans and directly touch the lives of individuals, family members, neighbors, and colleagues. Families often deal with the complex dynamics of supporting a loved one in recovery while at the same time learning how to take care of their own well-being. Given the widespread impact and societal cost of these behavioral health conditions, it’s important for communities to make prevention, treatment, and recovery support services available and accessible for all who need them.” Breaking the stigma benefits those who struggle with these mental health issues, and just as importantly, it benefits everyone, because addiction and mental health issues touch the lives of coworkers, neighbors, friends and more. National Recovery Month changes the conversation from one of unproductive blame to one of helpful understanding and healing.

Finding Understanding and Recovery

Don’t wait for National Recovery Month to begin your or a loved one’s journey to wellness. Learn more about the truth behind addiction and how you can help yourself recovery or a family and community heal. Call our toll-free number for facts about addiction, treatment and recovery and access to the nation’s best treatment programs and providers. We are here for you 24 hours a day, so begin your journey today. Call now.

[1] “Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery!” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2016. Web. 10 May 2016.

[2] “The Effectiveness of Interventions for Reducing Stigma Related to Substance Use Disorders.” Addiction. 12 Oct 2011. Web. 10 May 2016.

[3] “The Deadly Stigma of Addiction.” The Fix. 5 Dec 2012. Web. 10 May 2016.