The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated October 10 World Mental Health Day. This important day of observance was created to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. The day also provides an opportunity for those working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide. So, let’s talk.

Substance use disorder (SUD)  is a  mental health issue. Two out of three people who struggle with addiction also have co-occurring mental health illnesses which can include post-traumatic stress, depressive disorders, anxiety, and/or obsessive-compulsive disorders. This existence of co-occurring psychological disorders can lead to people struggling with substance abuse to develop a chemical dependency or addiction. And once a person’s brain is addicted to alcohol or other drugs, it also has a physical disease that must heal.This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’. It speaks to the stigma associated with mental health and that causes too many people with a mental illness to not receive the treatment that they need and deserve

Mental Health Stigma

According to the National Institutes of Health, 75 percent of people who need help with substance use disorders don’t get treatment due to shame and stigma. When you consider that per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 20.7 million Americans, or approximately 8 percent of the U.S. population, need SUD treatment, you can see how critical it is that we remove the stigma surrounding SUD in order to address mental health. In addition, due to the COVID pandemic, mental health issues have increased. With the pandemic-related mental health crisis comes an increase in substance use.

According to research from WHO, there is a deficiency in the quality of care provided to people with a mental health problem. It can take up to 15 years before medical, social and psychological treatments for mental illness that have been shown to work are delivered to the people that need them. This despite the fact the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity require that health plans treat mental health and substance use disorders the same way they treat other health issues. Mental health and substance use disorder coverage must be comparable to coverage for general medical and surgical care. And limitations on mental health and substance use disorder benefits such as copayments, visit limits, and preauthorization requirements, must generally be comparable with those for medical/surgical benefits. So, where’s the gap? Stigma. We must fight it and that’s why days like October 10 matter.

At Lionrock we know that people with SUDS are vulnerable because society often views their behavioral health disorder as a moral failure. The misperception of SUDs allows society to marginalize people affected by them. As long as this stigma persists, this population will remain marginalized and vulnerable. 

So please join us in fighting the stigma. On social media use the hashtag #WorldMentalHealthDay to let others know you reject the stigma.