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Mental illness is a general term for a group of illnesses that affect the mind or brain. These illnesses, which include bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and personality disorders, affect the way a person thinks, feels and acts. The exact cause of mental illness is unknown. What is known is that mental illness is NOT a character fault, weakness or something inherently ‘wrong’ with a person. It is an illness like any other.

Though medications may play an important role in recovery from a mental health disorder because they aid in the management of symptoms, they are not the only option in mental healthcare. In fact, for many, they play a steadily decreasing role in recovery as they progress and grow through treatment. Each person is different and will be differently impacted by the specific mental health disorder in combination with drug or alcohol abuse and addiction, and thus different therapies and treatments will make sense in different situations. However, in general, options may include: • Cognitive and behavioral therapies • Support groups • Family therapy • Yoga • Exercise • Meditation • Acupuncture and acupressure • Bodywork and massage • Herbal supplements .

One very common scenario occurs when a person experiences a trauma that triggers depression, anxiety, disordered eating habits, suicidal thoughts, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In an attempt to manage the otherwise unmanageable symptoms associated with these disorders, many people turn to drugs and alcohol. These substances may initially serve to quell the anxiety, alleviate depression, or otherwise numb the pain caused by the mental health issue. However, over time, continued use of these substances will fail to bring the sought after relief and will instead create a new and equally intrusive problem: addiction.

Yes. Some drugs – including synthetic drugs, LSD, crystal meth, prescription stimulants like Adderall, and others – have been shown to trigger extreme mental health issues. Depression, agitation and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, and more have all been attributed to drug use. Though acute mental health symptoms under the influence are common, it is often the case that people who stop using the drug and undergo treatment will be able to reverse most, if not all, of the effects. However, in some cases, full recovery is not available. For example, heavy marijuana use in young people with a predisposition for schizophrenia may be more likely to trigger the development of schizophrenia, a disorder that will not improve with cessation of use.

Many individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or some other types of mental illness suffer from anosognosia (the inability to perceive their illness and need for treatment). One approach that is often effective is LEAP, which stands for: Listen: understand what the other person is trying to convey; reflect back what you have heard, without your opinions and ideas; listen for common ground Empathize: empathize with how they feel about their symptoms and what has happened to them, without necessarily agreeing with everything they say Agree: find areas of agreement, including goals you both want, e.g. to stay out of the hospital Partner: collaborate to work toward agreed upon goals

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