By Congressman Kweisi Mfume
Whether heroin, cocaine, opioids, or other harmful substance is at the root of a substance use disorder, it important we remove the stigma from those seeking help. We can only build up our communities if we build up each other. We must keep hope alive in the very people who feel their situation is hopeless. We must help our loved to admit their problem. We must know that our sons, daughters, brothers, or sisters have hope. There is a way to help; families and communities can make a difference.
We won’t be jailing our way out of this crisis. The war on drugs is a war on families. The way we must approach this epidemic is with a holistic non-stigmatizing way of promoting recovery as a mental health solution that works.
Family support is vital to recovery. It’s important that relatives have the tools to begin conversations about prevention, treatment, and recovery. People with substance use disorders can feel isolated and alone and sometimes experience mental health issues from the isolation or stigma. Millions of Americans experience these conditions, and many are right here in central Maryland. It’s important that we offer help to persons facing mental health and substance use disorders. In fact, we must create environments and relationships that grow acceptance.
Too many people are still unaware that prevention works, and that mental health and substance use disorders can be treated, just like other health problems. I have witnessed the positive reality of recovery. Individuals who embrace recovery achieve improved health. Because of their stronger relationships with their families, friends, and neighbors, they are able to withstand the mental and physical challenges of starting the uphill climb towards recovery.
Keeping hope alive is so important. We have to be both focused and intentional in order to make more people feel as though recovery is possible. Mental health and substance use disorders affect people of all races, regions, socioeconomic levels, age and experiences. They need to know that treatment is available. We can help people get better, both physically and emotionally, with the help of their support system and the greater community at large. Finding hope and spreading the message that recovery works can begin by celebrating National Recovery Month not just this September but every month hereafter.
Your continued work on and care about this issue will demonstrate the support of the recovery community, including those who provide prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. I urge all of our communities to join the movement to reduce the stigma of mental health and substance use disorders. Let people know that free, confidential help is available 24 hours a day through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD). Or their website: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/recovery
Offering support to those living through mental health and substance use disorders can and will make a big difference. Together we can help others reach their full potential through recovery. Let’s give families the right support to help their loved ones and keep hope alive for them and for all of us.
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