Ask: Not why the addiction, but why the Pain?

alcohol addictionMental health challenges touch many of us, whether you have experienced depression, anxiety or another mental illness first hand or have a friend or family member that has had this experience. Mental illness does not discriminate.

One can be living with a mental illness and be mentally well, because they are managing their illness effectively; whether this is with medication, stress management, mindfulness training or meditation. Sometimes addictions come into play when that person is self-medicating to cope with mental pain or anguish. They may be self-medicating because of the mental or emotional pain they are experiencing from a mental illness or from having a history of abuse, neglect, or trauma.

Where are the supports for these individuals before these issues become all consuming? With the stigma attached to any form of mental illness, people are embarrassed to admit they are struggling, and delay seeking the help they need.

Can we start to be more compassionate? And not assume a person suffering an addiction is morally reprehensible? What’s critical to better supporting people suffering addictions is to ask as Dr. Gabor Mate suggests: “Not why the addiction, but why the pain?”

Author: Sarah R.N.

Registered Nurse working as a Public Health Nurse in the Injury and Substance Misuse Prevention Program at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

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