Letter: Concerns over drugs and mental health in Hastings are valid onesI would like to comment on the editorial two weeks ago regarding mental health in Hastings being a bigger concern than drugs.
To the editor,
I would like to comment on the editorial two weeks ago regarding mental health in Hastings being a bigger concern than drugs.
I believe that our Hastings residents’ concerns over drug use and mental health are valid ones. These problems are bigger issues than residents are willing to accept or admit. After living in and raising my children in this community and also providing chemical dependency services for the better part of my adult life in this community, I know all too well just how significant the problem is.
What the community fails to recognize is that alcohol needs to be thought of in the same area as drug dependency. Do I agree that mental health is of greater concern? No. Do I believe that they are equally significant? Of course.
As a provider of chemical dependency services, the term is appropriately called dual diagnosis. According to the most recent reports, upward of 80 percent of those who suffer from alcohol and drug abuse also suffer from co-occurring disorders, mental health problems. It does not take long for an individual to realize that if you suffer from a mental illness, chemicals will temporarily take away the symptoms, pain, and trauma.
Human services professionals have worked very hard to coordinate services to address both. Both the United States Department of Human Services and the Federal Drug Administration have excellent statistics to identify the loss of lives due to these co-occurring disorders. The important thing to remember is that although suicide is the issue addressed in the editorial, car accidents where alcohol is a contribution factor, firearm deaths and major health issues (such as diabetes, stroke, cirrhosis, and cardiac problems), should also be identified along with suicides as deaths caused by chemical use.
Firstly, our communities have to begin to look at the big picture, identifying that alcohol is a drug.
Secondly, we need to see that along with addressing the mental health, most often the chemical dependency issues need to also be treated at the same time.
Lastly, it is important to remember that although these statistics already show an enormously high rate of mental health issues in those who are drug and alcohol dependent and vice versa, these statistics in reality are probably much higher.
When homeless or troubled persons succumb to their mental health and chemical dependency issues, the financial resources to perform autopsies and/or the willingness of families to address the possibility that drugs and/or alcohol played a part in the death is just too painful too bear. Because of this, many deaths that should be reported as being the result of mental health or chemical dependency go unreported.
My final thought is that I am very concerned that this seems to be a contest of which is worst (mental health or chemical dependency) and that it is even being discussed. The truth is that they usually go hand in hand and can both be treated. In my many years of working as a chemical dependency professional, I have witnessed parents, wives, husbands, friends and individuals spend more time researching the price of a car than the best treatment options for their loved ones or themselves. Identifying those programs, which address the needs of the whole person, is what needs to be done- not debating which is a greater need.