February 26, 2020

2019 National Mental Health Month: Dual Diagnosis and Your Teen

Since 1949, every May has been set aside as National Mental Health Awareness Month. This is the world’s most-visible awareness campaign focusing specifically on mental health issues. In 2018 alone, 30 million people were exposed to vital information about the resources available to help them attain good emotional balance.

Public awareness is very important, because according to the  National Survey of Children with Special Health Needs, over two million young people in the United States have a behavioral or emotional disability.

Mental illness often presents with other health conditions –both physical and mental – that can negatively impact the person’s quality of life and even their ability to function normally. This is exactly why the theme for 2019 is perfectly on-point: “Dueling Diagnoses: Mental Health and Chronic Conditions in Children in Adults”.

Adolescent Mental Health Statistics

Even a brief look at these statistics shows how serious the problem really is.

  • 20% of American adolescents have a diagnosable mental disorder.
  • 10% have conditions so severe that it limits their ability to function at home, at school, and within the community.
  • 70% of teens with Emotional/Behavioral Disability are not receiving the specialized care they require.
  • Only 40% of teens with EBD graduate high school.
  • The national average is 76%.
  • Between 10% and 25% enroll in college after high school.
  • 53% of the rest of the population goes to college.
  • They are up to 13 times more likely to be arrested before they leave high school than other students.
  • Compared to other youths who have learning or developmental disabilities, teenagers with EBD are twice as likely to become underage mothers.

What Mental Conditions Co-Occur with Substance Abuse?

Roughly 50% of people with a mental illness also have a Substance Use Disorder – an addiction to illicit drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications.

These related conditions share many genetic and environmental contributing factors.  As a result, the manifest simultaneously with distressing frequency

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Experienced by 70% of teenagers with SUD.
  • Likewise, 60% of teens with PTSD abuse alcohol or drugs.
  • Depression: Approximately two-thirds of substance abusing teens struggle with depression.
  • Bipolar Disorder: 60% of bipolar patients are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
  • Anxiety: Present in one-third of adolescents who SUD.
  • Disordered Eating: Teenagers with an eating disorder are five times more likely to abuse drugs or drink excessively.
  • Schizophrenia: Compared to the general population, schizophrenics have a risk of SUD that is up to 1000 times higher.
  • 45% of people with schizophrenia will have SUD within their lifetime.

Suggested Supportive Strategies for Self-Care

2019’s theme describes some of the best self-care strategies that promote good mental health:

  • Humor
  • Religion and Spirituality
  • Support Animals and Pets
  • Recreation and Social Connections
  • A Healthy Work/School-Life Balance

Each of these often-overlooked self-care methods are easily put in place.  These are useful during addiction recovery, because they reduce or eliminate stress, loneliness, and boredom, all of which can sabotage successful recovery.  They are necessary, unfortunately, because just 2% of people with a dual diagnosis ever receive specialized treatment for both kinds of conditions.

Professional Treatment for a Dual Diagnosis

When a young person is battling co-occurring disorders, standard mental health or addiction treatment is just not sufficient to support complete recovery.  The majority of rehab programs simply do not do enough to address any comorbid mental illness, while most mental health counselors and therapists do not possess the resources needed to fully address an addictive disorder.

And even fewer programs address the unique needs of teenagers, whose still-developing brains are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of mind-altering substances.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness advises that in order to achieve the best results, each condition needs to be regarded as the primary presenting disorder. This means that both the addiction and the mental illness are both treated at the same time. This reduces the likelihood of complications as mental episodes or relapse.

Depending upon the individual’s personal history and needs, the best course of action is a treatment plan that addresses the dual diagnosis with a combination of strategies, possibly including:

  • Individual psychological counseling—To deal with issues specific to the person
  • Education—To learn more about their conditions
  • Peer group therapy—To discuss issues common to most people with such a dual diagnosis
  • Medication-Assisted Therapy—To regulate moods, restore brain chemistry, ease cravings, and alleviate symptom of withdrawal
  • Nutrition—To restore health and balance moods
  • Exercise—To reduce stress
  • Positive coping strategies—To reduce impulsive or self-destructive responses
  • Communication skills—To help eliminate misunderstandings and to establish boundaries
  • Relapse prevention and response planning—To eliminate and deal with triggers
  • Recreational therapy—To ease boredom and loneliness
  • Support groups—To foster fellowship and provide inspiration and strength
  • Services for the family—To help repair relationships and put and end to enabling and codependent behaviors
  • Long-term aftercare—To support successful long-term sobriety

The best dual diagnosis treatment programs have a team of service providers working together in cooperation, under the umbrella of a shared treatment philosophy. Integrative, comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment means that all of your recovery needs are addressed.

What is the Bottom Line about Mental Health Month 2019?

Mental Health Month is the perfect time to look for the specialized professional care that your teenager needs to safely and successfully recover from a complicated dual diagnosis. With the proper help, they can regain control over their life—no more emotional pain, acting out, dangerous drinking and drug use, chaos, confusion, or dysfunction.

Since 1978, the  most-trusted resource in Southern California for teens and families in crisis is Teensavers,  top youth-focused dual diagnosis treatment program in Orange County. With a unique, yet evidenced-based approach, Teensavers provides the services your child needs to regain their sobriety and emotional balance. Even better, Teensavers helps them STAY that way.

Addiction and untreated mental illness can wreak havoc on a family and jeopardize your child’s future. The best thing you can do as a parent to get them help NOW, by contacting Teensavers TODAY.

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