Drug rehab centers in NJ are aware of the strong links between mental illness and substance use disorders. Nearly one in four who find themselves in addiction treatment in New Jersey are likely to also have undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, for instance. Other research and experts frequently point to the links of depression, anxiety and especially trauma as indicators of a person’s risk to develop an addiction to substances to ‘self medicate’ for untreated mental wellness issues.
While mental health treatment access and addiction access both are far from being universally available, especially federal policy which continues to privatize health care in general, one school district in Michigan is not waiting for action from D.C.
Dr. Robert Shaner, superintendent of Rochester Community Schools stated, “It’s no secret that our community has been affected by a number of tragedies. I’m disheartened by the number of suicides and the number of opioid deaths we’ve seen. There’s a stigma that surrounds asking for getting help.” These remarks came as he announced his district has implemented a new task force led by administrators and school board members to study best practices for social emotional wellness. The program is implemented with support from social emotional experts from Michigan State University.
Ken Daniels, long time Red Wings announcer delivered some of the devastating statistics that are in the target of the project.
“By the time you’ve finished breakfast today, we’ll lose another seven to twelve people across the US to opioids. Another two will be born addicted by the time you leave this room. That’s the issue we have. Time does not heal all wounds. There’s a hole in our family’s heart that will never heal.”
Daniel’s son had recovered from opioid addiction developed while attending Michigan State but relapsed when a doctor prescribed him Xanax. In that relapse, his son ended up ingesting a pill laced with fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid which is 100 times stronger than heroin, causing heart failure.
“It’s the shame and stigma around addiction that stop people from healing. Empathy is the highest form of knowledge. Addicts do not want to be addicts. I will never understand why any condition below the shoulders, we’ll talk about that, but not mental illness,” Daniels continued in his very personal speech.
The task force is currently looking at the entire system of dealing with emotional and social wellness across the student population. Shaner added, “Our job is to have a profound impact on our kids. It’s time we all talk about this. It’s time.”
Addiction experts in multiple fields concerned with understanding it further know that emotional health and mental health are significant contributors to substance use disorder in variety of people, regardless of their background, age, wealth, ethnicity or any other arbitrary delineation we ascribe to the population. Addiction has no prejudice, but stigma on the condition does.