People suffering from substance use disorder or other mental health issues are not only struggling with the symptoms and effects of their disease, but they are also faced with an additional challenge because of social stigma. They are often viewed negatively by people, even by those closest to them.
Many studies suggest that stigmatizing attitudes towards people with mental health conditions are prevalent. Through the efforts of various programs, a growing number of people are learning to be more compassionate. People who survived addiction and are in recovery deserve to be uplifted not shunned. One of these powerful programs that increases awareness of mental health struggles is the National Recovery Month initiative.
What is National Recovery Month?
National Recovery Month or Recovery Month is a long-standing national observance held every September to essentially increase awareness on the effectiveness of treatment and services for substance use disorder and other mental health issues and to affirm the successes of people in recovery. This celebration sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) under the United States Department of Health and Human Services specifically aims to:
- Highlight the benefits of prevention and treatment for mental and substance use disorder, not only for the individual or his family but to the society as well;
- Celebrate the successes, small or big, of people in recovery;
- Emphasize the valuable message that mental health is critical to overall health, that prevention and treatment of mental health issues is effective, and that people can recover from them;
- Encourage everyone to take action and help expand and improve the availability of effective treatment and recovery services for those who need them; and
- Enjoin the support of the public in celebrating the gains made by individuals in recovery.
What is the History of National Recovery Month?
The National Recovery Month has a long history. This observance began as Treatment Works! Month in 1989, which was a campaign led by the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) to recognize the people who work in the treatment and recovery field.
After almost a decade, the observance evolved and was renamed the National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month in 1998, as it expanded its coverage to celebrate not only the contribution of treatment practitioners but also the accomplishments of individuals in recovery, including their families and friends. In 2011, the observance was renamed once again as to what is now known as National Recovery Month, which included all aspects of behavioral health.
Why Celebrating National Recovery Month is Important?
The National Recovery Month has been observed across the U.S. for almost three decades and this campaign has been valuable for the following reasons:
It helps transform people’s understanding and view of drug addiction and other mental health issues.
Every year, SAMSHA creates and make available various resources and informational materials about all facets of addiction and mental health illness, treatment, and recovery as part of the National Recovery Month.All these things and the campaign itself help educate and correct the misconceptions of the public about mental health disorders. The observance stresses the fact that behavioral or mental health issues are conditions which are no different from physical illnesses and that people can also recover from them.
It encourages and motivates individuals with behavioral problems to seek treatment as well.
Considering that the celebration of Recovery Month highlights the successes of individuals who have reclaimed their lives in long-term recovery, those who are going through similar struggles can find hope and assurance that they too can recover. It is easy for people with mental health issues to feel lost and disheartened because they generally feel different and alone. Learning about the gains made by people in recovery would give them a much-needed boost to seek treatment.
It helps people in recovery to sustain their positive change.
Individuals in recovery who actively participate and get involved in the many activities of Recovery Month will also be motivated to sustain their positive change. A recent study suggests that former addicts who help others with similar struggles tend to achieve long-term sobriety.
What Can You Do to Support National Recovery Month?
There are many things you can do to show your support for Recovery Month, here are some of them:
- Participate in any of the Recovery Month events – Find what Recovery Month events and activities are being conducted in your area, and be actively involved in any of them.
- Hold an event – If you enjoy organizing and managing events, you can create a Recovery Month event yourself and post it on the Recovery Month website, so that more people in your area can know about it and participate.
- Get your local officials involved – Encourage local government officials to issue proclamations, statements, or letters of support to National Recovery Month.
- Share your story – If you have a recovery story to share, you can post it on your various social media accounts or Recovery Month’s social media pages so that people can be encouraged by your journey.
- Utilize the power of social media – Even if you do not have your own recovery story to share, you can post positive messages, quotes, pictures, or upload videos about substance use disorder or other mental health issues to create awareness about this issue and the National Recovery Month celebration as well.
Bonus: Tips for Addiction Recovery
In honor of Recovery Month, here are some tips that you may want to consider if you, or any of your loved ones, successfully won the battle against substance use disorder and is working to maintain long-term recovery:
Instead of resisting while everyone around you is taking drugs, it is best to avoid risky situations altogether. Make friends with positive people, hang out in wholesome places, start a healthy hobby, or do whatever you need to do, just to stay away from temptation.
Join Support Groups
It is difficult to stay sober on your own. Find groups or organizations that connect you with people who understand your condition, so you will have a solid support system whom you can rely on for help.
Discover Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress
Stress is positively linked to addiction, so you need to practice healthier ways to manage it such as exercising, reading, meditation, yoga, or even simple breathing exercises.
Rely on a Trusted Friend or Family Member
Ask a trusted friend or family member to always accompany you in social gatherings so you would be less tempted to drink or hang-out with the wrong crowd. Your trusted someone should be always available to keep you accountable.