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We’ve Been There: Blessings of Recovery

This September is Recovery Month, and to celebrate we are sharing inspiring stories from our incredible staff members in recovery. Here at The Council, we know that the road to recovery can be difficult, because we’ve been there. But we also know that recovery is worth it. To anyone who’s considering taking that first step, we want you to know that we are here to carefully listen without judgement, and provide the vital support and solutions you need to recover. This story is the first entry in a series especially for Recovery Month to celebrate recovery and to honor our amazing staff who share its gifts with so many others.

I am a woman in long term recovery, established December 3, 2001. My journey in recovery began after a 25-year addiction and the thankful interruption of the criminal justice system, which inadvertently saved my life. The most important thing for me in my recovery journey is being able to live and have purpose in my life, rather than existing in the darkness of addiction. Someone told me early in recovery that whatever you go through in life is a blessing or a lesson, and when you learn from the lesson, it too becomes a blessing. Hence, all of my life’s experiences are a blessing. 

My recovery evolved over time from a 90-day treatment program, to aftercare while simultaneously participating in a 12-step mutual aid group and living one day at a time. My recovery means everything to me. Without it, I could not have met the many goals and received the many blessings bestowed upon me. I am an advocate for the recovery movement and speak proudly of my experiential knowledge of addiction and recovery. During my 18+ years of recovery, I have overcome many obstacles and removed barriers for those wanting recovery from their substance use disorder. I love being a soldier for recovery on the battlefield, helping others become recovery soldiers and lifting up our fallen soldiers. There is hope after dope!

How COVID-19 Is Affecting Teens’ Mental Health

This post is contributed by CHOICES counselor Joanna Robertson, M.MFT, LMFT, LPC

Like most of us, adolescents had their world turned upside down back in March by the Coronavirus pandemic. As teens prepare to return to school, I want to share a few of the ways COVID-19 has affected teens’ mental health, how this impacts them long-term, and how you can help.

The adolescent brain is still growing and developing. The prefrontal cortex, the section of the brain responsible for critical thinking and impulse control, is not fully developed until about 25 years old. Thus, adolescents may need additional support when it comes to regulation, which includes sleeping patterns, use of time and technology usage. Because of the pandemic, students lost the structure of school time, and when coupled with a lack of parental support, this left students to navigate on their own. This led to odd sleeping patterns and overall dysregulation, which can impact coursework, family relationships, and mental health.

Teens mental health

What are the challenges teens face in the pandemic?

Students lost consistent access to friends and adult supports. One study found that 80% of adolescent girls feel “more lonely and isolated than before” (The Rox Institute). While teachers, counselors, and mentors are doing their best to remain connected, it proves a challenging situation. Many teens are experiencing an increase in their sense of isolation, depression, and loneliness.

In addition to navigating schoolwork at home, many students have taken on new responsibilities, including childcare, housework, and part-time jobs. This puts additional pressure on teens to use their time and energy in a balanced way, which is already a challenge for the adolescent brain. It also makes it challenging for these students to keep up with schoolwork and can cause many to fall even further behind.

These are only a few of the factors impacting teens as a result of COVID-19. If teens were already using alcohol and/or drugs, they likely continue to do so throughout the pandemic. As their stress increases and their access to healthy coping support decreases, they are more at risk for developing substance use disorders. Further, previous crises show that teenagers may develop substance use problems after the crisis has passed. It is important that caring adults stay actively engaged in supporting the adolescents in their life.

How you can help teens.

Adolescents are creative, resilient, and resourceful, especially when they have supportive adults in their life. If you are wondering how you can help, start with the teens in your life. Talk to them about how they are experiencing things and ask what support they might need. Help them create structure. It’s something they may not want in the moment, but it’s something they need, and need help creating. Connect them with mental health resources either through their school or in the community. Finally, be aware of your own coping methods and responses. Set an example by finding healthy coping skills, such as meditation, peer support, counseling, and exercise.

If you need support, The Council is the place to start. Call us today at 713.914.0556 and ask about our virtual services.

How Employers Can Support the Mental Health of their Employees During a Pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic, economic collapse and historic unemployment are threatening the collective mental health of the United States workforce. Barriers to mental health treatment such as stigma in the workplace will only intensify this mental health crisis for American workers.

According to a poll by the American Psychological Association, only half of workers in the United States say they are comfortable talking about their mental health in the workplace. More than a third of participants cite concern about job consequences if they seek mental healthcare through their employer. These troublesome statistics indicate that, now more than ever, we need to work together to destigmatize the conversation around mental health, so that employees feel safe to seek treatment.

What can employers do?

Company policies and communications that emphasize mental health is a priority can reduce or eliminate a major barrier to seeking substance abuse and mental health treatment. Adopting and promoting an employee assistance program that employees can use anonymously, to eliminate any fear of judgment or repercussions, is a great start. Other ways to look after employees’ mental health includes regularly checking in with them, fostering a positive and transparent work environment, encouraging open conversations around mental health, and increasing access to mental health resources.

Employee mental health

These efforts benefit everyone in the long run, especially when they can result in employees seeking treatment for substance use disorder. In a normal year, drug abuse costs employers upwards of $81 billion due to high turnover rates, reduced productivity and quality of work, higher absenteeism and sick time, increased number of on-the-job accidents and injuries, increased costs of workers’ compensation and disability, and increased healthcare costs.

We need your help.

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues, substance abuse and overdoses are increasing nationwide. Recent Census Bureau data shows that, during the pandemic one-third of adults are experiencing severe anxiety, and nearly one-quarter are showing signs of depression. With no end to the pandemic in sight, efforts to reduce barriers to mental health treatment rest in the hands of employers. Together, we can combat these rising rates and reduce the impact of the pandemic on employees’ mental health.

If you know someone at work who is struggling with substance use or mental health, The Council is the place to start. For questions or to get started, contact us here or at 713.914.0556. Virtual treatment is available.

Generous Grant From Bob Woodruff Foundation Brings Treatment Services to Veterans Impacted by Hurricane Harvey and COVID-19

The Council is excited to announce that we have received a generous contribution from the Bob Woodruff Foundation to provide recovery coaching, intensive case management, and clinical therapy to veterans and their families who are impacted by substance use and co-occurring mental health conditions. The grant is made possible by a partnership between the Bob Woodruff Foundation and the Qatar Harvey Fund to support veterans affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Veterans

Through this grant, The Council will support at least 50 veterans and their families who were originally impacted by Hurricane Harvey and currently struggling with substance use and co-occurring mental health conditions in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Veterans and their families are disproportionately impacted by substance use and mental health disorders, and the current trauma only magnifies these problems and far exceeds many people’s ability to cope.

The Council is well-positioned to respond to these individuals, having hosted the 2019 Veterans Mental Health Summit, and participating on the City of Houston’s Mayor’s Challenge Committee to reduce suicide among veterans in our community. As always, this project will include treatment not only for veterans, but also their families.

For more information or to send a referral, please contact our Outreach Coordinator and Veteran Liaison at dsunday@councilonrecovery.org or at 281-200-9242.

The Connection Between Trauma & Addiction, with John O’Neill

Lori invites John O’Neill of The Menninger Clinic to discuss the connection between trauma, PTSD, and substance abuse. With the whirlwind of shocking events occurring in the world, from COVID-19, to the economic collapse, to the repeated acts of police brutality and ensuing protests, we’re already seeing an increase in trauma cases across our community. Lori and John explain why that is, and how we can help those experiencing trauma.

What Do Expanded Telehealth Services Mean for the Mental Healthcare Industry Beyond COVID-19?

To limit the spread of COVID-19, The Council on Recovery has joined numerous behavioral health organizations across the world in adopting telehealth into our services, which means we treat people remotely for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. While telehealth has its drawbacks, expanded telehealth services across the globe is a significant step forward for mental healthcare, during the pandemic and beyond.

Here’s the problem – one in five adults in the United States live with a mental illness, but only half of them seek treatment. On top of this dismaying statistic is another reality – trauma and isolation from the global Coronavirus pandemic will undoubtedly trigger a mental health crisis in the United States. Unlike hurricanes and wildfires, which are localized, the virus brings devastation to all communities, and intensifies the need for mental health services in our country where million people are estimated to live in regions without direct access to mental health professionals.

Telehealth

Here’s another problem – despite major strides toward a better understanding and awareness of the importance of mental health, having any sort of mental illness, from anxiety to substance use disorder, is still highly stigmatized around the world and across cultures. People living with a mental illness may experience prejudice and discrimination, especially if they live in communities which downplay the importance of mental health.

The mental healthcare system going virtual breaks down barriers for many of those who need it.

Right now, telehealth is bringing needed services to individuals while still allowing them to stay inside and distance from people. Beyond, it means essential treatment is now accessible for people who aren’t mobile due to financial or health reasons, or those 111 million people who live in areas that lack mental health services.

The expansion of telehealth services also means that those who come from backgrounds in which mental illness is highly stigmatized can get treatment without drawing too much attention to themselves from their family or community members. They can also skip that scary first step of physically going to a treatment center.

Telehealth isn’t the ultimate answer to the mental health crisis America is about to face, especially since there are still technologically-poor populations who need our help. However, it is a big step forward in terms of accessibility, and The Council will continue to take whatever actions necessary to serve people struggling with substance use.

We’re seeing telehealth’s positive impact right here at The Council.

“Telehealth services have provided a unique opportunity for social interaction and normalcy during an otherwise traumatic, solitary collective experience,” says Jaimee Martinez, case manager for the Cradles program at The Council. “The feedback I had previously gotten from clients regarding in-person classes was that they enjoyed the secondary benefits of having some time to themselves to grow, learn and take a breather. I am finding this to be true with virtual classes as well.”

If you or a loved one need help with substance use or a co-occurring mental health disorder, contact us here or call us at 713.914.0556. Click here to learn more about our telehealth services.