Ask your friend or neighbor if they have been touched by substance abuse or mental illness in any way and the answer is almost always – ‘yes.’ Substance abuse and mental health issues are serious public health problems in Mississippi. In 2012, an estimated 199,000 Mississippians needed treatment services for alcohol and drug use and more than 165,000 people for a mental health issue.
During September, Mississippi joins the nation in celebrating National Recovery Month. Recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. Recovery is unique to each individual and can truly only be defined by the individual themselves. What might be recovery for one person may be only part of the process for another. Supports and services help people with mental illness and substance abuse issues in their recovery journeys.
Mississippian David Connell says his experiences and struggles during his recovery journey have allowed him to share his story with others and to make a positive impact. “To me, recovery means being able to make a meaningful contribution,” said Connell, a Certified Peer Support Specialist. “What really worked for me in my recovery journey was having structure and purpose in my life. That has allowed me to make a positive impact and work to decrease the stigma associated with mental health.”
To celebrate recovery, the Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH) and the Mississippi Peer Support Specialist Network is continuing their public awareness campaign, Think Recovery. During the next year, all DMH certified providers will be encouraged to continue educate their staff on the 10 + 1 Components of Recovery. These components include: Self-Direction, Individualized and Person-Centered, Empowerment, Holistic, Non-Linear, Strengths-Based, Peer Support, Respect, Responsibility, Hope, and Resiliency.
Gulf Coast resident Melody Worsham says the road to recovery isn’t always perfect, but you learn from the trials and continue with the journey. “When a traveler pulls off to the side of the road to fix a tire, we do not consider that a failed trip, and we would not declare that the person will not make it back on the road,” said Worsham, President of the Mississippi Peer Support Specialist Network. “I have never heard of anyone who pulls off the road and decides to stay there. Traveling through life is like that. Sometimes we get a flat and linger at a plateau of recovery until repairs can be made. Sometimes we go too fast and pay the penalty. Other times, we limp along the shoulder until we can get to a rest stop and refuel. And then there are times when the road conditions couldn’t be more perfect. It isn’t just the perfect road trip that we count as recovery. The entire trip is recovery as long as we keep our destination in focus.”
Videos of personal stories of recovery and community integration will be highlighted each month during the next year in conjunction with the Think Recovery campaign.
“We all possess the fundamental and inherent value to be accepted and treated with respect and worth,” said Ed LeGrand, Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health. “We want individuals to restore, rebuild and reclaim control of their lives by increasing their resilience and focusing on their strengths. One of the ways we can emphasize recovery is to help increase awareness by focusing our attention on spotlighting personal stories of recovery.”
Recovery not only benefits the individual, it benefits the entire community. One of the first steps is to understand that behavioral health is an essential part of overall health. Most people don’t think twice about seeking treatment for diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure or other health conditions. People should seek treatment for substance abuse and mental health with the same urgency as they would any other health condition.
“After nine years in recovery, I have learned that you have to take action, realize it’s ok to ask for help, set a goal, and get involved with helping others,” said June Boudreaux, Certified Peer Support Specialist. “It’s about how to cope and face problems that come up in your everyday life. Recovery is about living a good, productive life. I’m not living in the problem anymore; I’m living in the solution.”
The Mississippi Peer Support Specialist Network are first degree family members and/or people living in recovery with mental illness, substance abuse, and intellectual and developmental disabilities that provide support to others who can benefit from their lived experiences. If you or someone you know is in need of services and supports, call the DMH’s 24 hour-a-day, 7 days a week at 1-877-210-8513 or visit www.dmh.ms.gov.