Previous Topics of the Month
November 2018: Behavioral Health Stigma & Homelessness
This previously homeless peer advocate keeps a website of resources for local members of his New Jersey community who are experiencing problems with mental health, addiction, low income and homelessness. By making sure his community members know where to go for resources, Paul Nickels is fighting the stigma and distorted perceptions around mental health, homelessness, and addiction. Click the title for the full article on his project from TapInto.net or visit https://hrgmediaorg.wordpress.com/ to see it in action.
Read along as Katie Horneshaw confronts an Australian media outlet’s portrayal of heroin addiction and challenges some of the distorted perceptions around addiction. This article may be rooted in Australia, but it’s message of empathy is inspiring no matter where in the world you’re located.
This article takes a look at how common distorted perceptions around addiction have evolved into “three basic schools of thought on alcoholics and homeless shelters” centered around the idea of “wet “ or “dry” shelters (whether or not participants are allowed to seek shelter while intoxicated). The article also touches on harm reduction, housing first, and sample goals/ viewpoints from organizations providing each. A great introduction to the conversation around treating homelessness and addiction! Click the title for the full article from The Fix.
After working with a local network of current and former drug users, 18 year old Max Kerr realized that he had many distorted perceptions towards homelessness and addiction. “When I came to my first meeting I kind of just kept to myself, and I was really nervous. I didn’t entirely want to shake people’s hands because all the perceptions I had were: homeless people are grimy, they’re dirty. And anyone I told about this, they said ‘Well, be careful that they don’t try to manipulate you into giving them money or drugs or something,’” he said. “As soon as I met them, I knew that my perception of them was wrong. I think a lot of people probably know that, too, but they don’t listen to that thought,” he said. Are you seeing clearly? Refocus and look again. Click the title for the entire story from The Abbotsford News.
This past August, a public mural highlighting mental illness and homelessness titled, Pieces to Peace was installed in Toledo, Ohio. Community members from all walks of life worked together over two months to create the 20-by-20-foot glass mosaic mural depicting “a homeless person with mental issues crouched in a structure with light coming through a window. Below the person is a set of eyes.” “The message of the mural is about reducing the stigma of mental health disease and homelessness. Everyone we stopped to talk to [about the project] along the way said, ‘I have an aunt, an uncle, a parent, a cousin [with mental health issues]. It’s a universal disease that we don’t talk about. [Discussion] is the goal of the mural, and we believe this visual is going to do that.” Click the title to access the entire article and photos of the mural from The Blade.
“If you’re living in a shelter you’re looked upon as someone who doesn’t care or have a purpose in life, which isn’t the case. It takes time dealing with the stigma that comes from misconceptions such as: “You’re uneducated.” “You won’t work.” “You’re just plain worthless.” Society turns the other way because they believe you are these things, before even giving you a chance.”
This first-person account explores the stigma, social implications, and obstacles for receiving help as a homeless person. “We need to look at the various stigmas or labels we put on people who are homeless and stand up and be accountable for the way we treat them. We need to learn to give trust. Don’t be blinded by the stigmas that are put upon them.” Are you seeing clearly? Refocus and look again. Click the title for the full article from HomelessHub.
”The stigma of drug use here is so strong, mothers ask Campanella if she can spare a dose of Narcan in case they need it to save their children. They'd rather not be seen in line at the pharmacy, they tell her.”
What distorted perceptions exist around addiction, treatment, and the overdose reversal drug Narcan? This article from EMS1 serves as a great introduction to the internal and external stigmas that can deter individuals, families, and entire communities from embracing treatment and recovery from addiction. Click the title for the full article from EMS1.com.
“Priya Mammen, an emergency room doctor at Methodist, said she often has a hard time convincing her patients to seek help outside the community. ‘Sometimes they don't even want to go up to our Center City campus,’ she said. ‘Prevention Point is a phenomenal resource that I would love to link any number of people to. But they're like, 'That's Kensington. I don't go there. I'm not that person.' The stigma goes in all directions.’”
This article from TakePart at Participant Media is challenging the distorted perceptions around addiction and homelessness by exploring the reasons why homeless people begin using drugs and alcohol and the barriers that keep them from treatment and long-term recovery. “Substance abuse is the leading cause of death in the homeless community, and almost half of people living on the streets suffer from chronic substance addiction… There’s really not a whole lot of anything that’s successful for the homeless to get their addictions taken care of. Even when there is a program they can get to, to get clean and sober, as soon as they’re done they’re right back on the street where the drugs and dealers are.” They also highlight the 2016 LIVES Challenge, a video-based anti-stigma project hosted by Recovery Brands. Click the title for the full article from TakePart.
“After being homeless for a period of time, a homeless person gains a mental illness, if nothing else the depression or anxiety that goes with it... we stay exhausted physically because we’re exhausted psychologically and mentally.” Three Redding residents who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness shed light on the connection between mental wellness and stable housing. Watch this short, 8 minute video to learn more about their stories.
In this TEDtalk, Rex Hohlbein gives some insight into the experience of being homeless. Rex is creator of Facing Homelessness, a nonprofit Seattle, Washington. The video is about 17 minutes long, but every minute is worth the watch! “‘When you live outside, it may appear that you are mingling with everyone else. But in fact you are not, you are separated out behind a giant Plexiglas divider, and the only people that you get to talk with are those who are also living non-normal lives behind the Plexiglas.’ And then it occurred to me- When we walk past someone who is suffering on the street without acknowledging them we are creating our own Plexiglas.”
October 2018: Behavioral Health Stigma and the Workplace
“Treatment for addiction, facilitated within or by the workplace, has been shown to be successful in increasing employees’ legal, mental, and social functioning, as well as decreasing absenteeism rates, workplace conflict, and productivity problems upon return from treatment… Taking steps to address addiction is truly an opportunity to humanize the workplace and help reduce suffering.” Click the title to access the entire article from Harvard Health Blog.
"A good first step toward successfully supporting a person in recovery is to honestly examine your own beliefs and feelings about addiction, and to make sure that your response to the colleague you are about to welcome back isn’t hampered by any hidden negative attitudes." Are you seeing clearly? Take some time to refocus and look again. Click the “Source” link for the full article from Harvard Health Blog.
“Rossi had just gotten a lesson in a hidden reality of the construction industry: In these physically demanding workplaces, painkillers are still a common way to get through the day, even as the opioid crisis has spiraled and workers have attended funeral after funeral. Workplace data on addiction is sparse, but recent research has indicated that construction workers are at higher risk for fatal overdoses — particularly heroin overdoses.” So the Allied Trades Assistance Program is bringing peer-support to construction sites. Follow the link for the full article from philly.com.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Center for Workplace Mental Health has developed a website full of educational information, case studies, and resources to help employers fight distorted perceptions and behavioral health stigma in the workplace. Follow the “Sources” link for their Employee Resources page, which features a calculator for calculating the monetary importance of prioritizing mental health in your workplace, an awareness campaign designed to reduce stigma around mental health, tools for addressing depression in the workplace, and the opportunity to sign up for their monthly Mental Health Works newsletter. Addictions materials are available in the tabs near the top of the page.
“Ideally your employer is recognizing that ‘mental health and physical health are closely connected.... But you as an employee can do a number of things to advocate for yourself.” Hint: This includes fighting both internal and external distorted perceptions. Click the title for the entire article “How to talk about mental health issues at work” from NBC News.
“Over half of people surveyed said that they had not been hired because of their mental illness.” Despite the survey being based in Australia, we’ve heard similar patterns of distorted perceptions and sentiments of discrimination expressed in the U.S. as well. Click the title for the full article "People with a mental illness discriminated against when looking for work and when employed" from The Conversation.
“‘It is possible that unemployment causes poor health conditions such as depression, or it could be that having such conditions makes it harder to land a job.’ Or, if intuition will be allowed to supplement data, it could be a lot of both.” Click the title for the full article "The Mental Health Consequences of Unemployment" from The Atlantic to to learn more.
“A job search is a stressful proposition, and during the application process the question hits us like a ton of bricks: do you have any disabilities that will require accommodations to be made?” Click the title for the full article as Healthy Place details how the Americans with Disabilities Act covers this issue, and how distorted perceptions and stigma around mental illness may influence your decision.
This England-based nonprofit is working to fight Distorted Perceptions around mental health in the workplace by engaging employers directly by helping them create a plan of action and holding them accountable through the Employer Pledge. “When you sign the Employer Pledge you demonstrate your commitment to change how we think and act about mental health in the workplace and make sure that employees who are facing these problems feel supported.” Time to Change also offers employers a Communications Pack filled with workplace anti-stigma activities, campaigns and engagement ideas: useful things no matter where you are in the world! Click the title to check them out.
In 2016, the National Mental Health Innovation Center (NMHIC) and the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business partnered “to equip the next generation of business leaders with awareness and skills to promote workplace mental health and participate in improving access to care.” Click the title for the full article on how they are challenging Distorted Perceptions through their curriculum and how they got MBA students around the world thinking about strategies to address stigma and mental health in the workplace.
“The truth is, many people living with mental health conditions are productive, reliable employees and leaders who live full and satisfying lives. But even in the most progressive workplaces, many employees keep their conditions secret. They may be afraid that being open about them will hurt their reputation, compromise work relationships, or even jeopardize their job.” Click the title for the full article from Kaiser Permanente "Reducing mental health stigma in the workplace" for more stats and tips for changing workplace culture.
“My first day returning to work after being treated for a severe opiate addiction was one of the most daunting moments of my life. Everyone in the office, from my manager to the administrative assistants, knew that forged prescriptions and criminal charges were the reason I had been let go from my previous job. My mind was spinning. What would my coworkers think of me? Who would want to work alongside an “addict”? Would they ever come to trust me? Did I even deserve to be here?” Click the title for the full article from the Harvard Health Blog on one physician’s experience with transitioning back to work after addiction treatment.
“There are many effective actions that organizations can take to promote mental health in the workplace [and] such actions may also benefit productivity.” Click the title for the full article "Mental health in the workplace" from the World Health Organization to find information on steps, interventions, and best practices that organizations can use to create a healthy workplace.
One of the most common Distorted Perceptions about behavioral health in the military is that revealing your diagnosis will automatically hurt your chances of advancing professionally. The Real Warriors Campaign challenges this idea, stating that “the decision to seek psychological health care counseling can actually favorably affect your eligibility for a clearance.” Check out their article for the ins and outs of how this process works.
“Misperceptions have emerged that negatively impact Veterans’ employment opportunities; opportunities which research shows are a major component of successful reintegration into civilian life.”
September 2018: Women and Addiction
“By adopting policies that scare women away from treatment, clinics and health organizations lose the opportunity to intervene and promote maternal and infant health.”
“I don't know if I was born with drugs in my body or not. But my mom used drugs while she was pregnant with me. So it wasn't long before kids at school were calling me a 'crack baby.'"
“Across the USA, the heavy-handed policing of pregnant women’s behavior is shattering patient trust in health services with devastating consequences. These laws put pregnant women in a double bind, forcing them to choose between risking their health and risking punishment,” said Carrie Eisert, Policy Adviser at Amnesty International, who authored the report.”
“TAMAR (Trauma, Addiction, Mental Health and Recovery) is a trauma-focused program for women that has been implemented in select Maryland detention centers. The TAMAR program aims to provide appropriate services to trauma victims and break the cycle of substance abuse, arrest, and incarceration.”
“Mothers with substance abuse disorders have been vilified in our society and are often deemed “unfit” to raise children by the lay public, social service providers, and health care providers. They have rarely been invited to share their views about motherhood and how it affects their recovery.”
“It can be hard for any person with a substance use disorder to quit. But women in particular may be afraid to get help during or after pregnancy due to possible legal or social fears and lack of child care while in treatment. Women in treatment often need support for handling the burdens of work, home care, child care, and other family responsibilities.”
“Between 1980 and 2009, the arrest rate for drug possession or use tripled among women, while it doubled among men. Opioid abuse has exacerbated the problem, and rural areas in particular lack the resources and readily accessible treatment to help curb the problem.”
“Fewer than a quarter of the nation’s substance abuse treatment centers offer services tailored to pregnant or postpartum women, according to the most recent survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration”
“The rise in hazardous drinking among women is not all due to the ads. But the ads have played a role in creating a cultural climate that says it’s funny when women drink heavily…”
“Both men and women are harshly judged for having an addiction, but addicted women face even greater stigma, which keeps many from getting the help they need.”
August 2018: Stigmatized in School- Examining the Intersection Between Behavioral Health and the Education System
July 2018: Stigma by Association- Parents and Families of Individuals with Behavioral Health Conditions
June 2018: Behavioral Health Stigma and the Armed Forces
May 2018: Stigma and Older Adults’ Behavioral Health
April 2018: Stigma and Children’s Behavioral Health
March 2018: The Opioid Epidemic