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The influential Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, famously preaches that “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” This is an important maxim to keep in mind when trying to advocate for individuals who struggle with both mental illness and addiction. Sometimes, when we try to help an individual with one, we end up exacerbating the other. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that some people with dual diagnoses need more help than we can personally offer them.

Understanding the Prevalence of Mental Illness and Addiction Dual Diagnosis

There is a high prevalence of people with co-occurring disorders in the U.S. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “33.5% of U.S. adults with mental illness also experienced a substance use disorder [SUD] in 2021 (19.4 million individuals).” Also, regarding young people, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, “Although there are fewer studies on comorbidity among youth, research suggests that adolescents with [SUD] also have high rates of co-occurring mental illness; over 60 percent of adolescents in community-based substance use disorder treatment programs also meet diagnostic criteria for another mental illness.” 

Clearly, there is a need for dual diagnosis within mental health and addiction care. This is especially true when it comes to understanding that people with co-occurring disorders of mental illness and addiction are more likely to experience homelessness, self-harm, and suicidal ideations. They are also much more likely to experience relapse, and relapse is a serious problem right now in the U.S.

Understanding the Prevalence of Relapse

Relapse happens more than many people may think. According to Addiction Relapse Prevention, “One primary concern in addiction treatment is the high rate of relapses within a short period after even the most intensive treatment. Many studies have shown relapse rates of approximately 50% within the first 12 weeks after completion of intensive inpatient programs that often last 4 to 12 weeks or more and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Despite the wide range of services available, there have been no standard relapse prevention programs established.”

This last point about the lack of “relapse prevention programs” is crucial because it shows the greater need for individual mental illness and addiction advocacy. Yet again, with dual diagnosis, people must approach this advocacy with care and intention.

Mental Illness and Addiction: Advocating for Those With Dual Diagnoses

One of the best ways to advocate for people with mental illness and addiction is to first help them with what we feel comfortable with, and then reach out to others, preferably professionals, for other issues. For example, if we are in recovery from addiction, we can be of great service by being available if an individual needs to reach out when they are struggling or to give someone a ride to a meeting.

However, if they start to ask for our advice on their mental illness issues and we have no experience with them, we should not try and offer advice on that which we don’t know. The good news is that there are plenty of treatment and recovery centers that can help us get them the help they need. For example, we here at The Phoenix Recovery Center are always available when someone needs advice on how to help someone struggling with issues of mental illness and addiction.

Advocating for Those With Mental Illness and Addiction While in Recovery

However, many of us are in recovery from co-occurring issues of mental illness and addiction ourselves. When that is the case, we are much more qualified to offer help on multiple fronts. However, we should never try and take the role of therapist or medical professional.

If someone is struggling with issues of mental illness and we can relate, we may want to inquire if they are taking their medication or still attending their regular therapy sessions. Essentially, are they sticking to their recovery plan?

Remember, whether we are in recovery from addiction, mental illness, or both, we are uniquely qualified to help other people who are struggling. This is especially true for members of a recovery or treatment center alumni program.

Helping Heal at the Cellular Level With The Phoenix Recovery Center

Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we believe that recovery does not end once someone leaves our doors. We remain available for any issues, and we highly recommend staying connected to others from the recovery center through an alumni program.

If you need help and information on mental health and addiction, we can help. For more information on how to become an advocate for people with co-occurring disorders, reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT