September is National Recovery Month which is an essential tradition geared towards those with mental health and substance use struggles. Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the purpose of this month’s movement is to raise awareness and celebrate those in all stages of recovery. Tens of thousands of mental health facilities and providers across the country are involved annually to reduce stigma and encourage help for those most in need. The 2019 theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger.”
The benefits of National Recovery Month are monumental. It provides a platform for people to know that recovery is possible and that many others have gone through a similar journey. It also works to promote healthy ways to progress on the path to recovery and it provides access to information regarding evidence-based treatment options. A recovery month toolkit created by SAMHSA helps local and national organizations plan events that increase awareness and reduce stigma. Its original conception thirty years ago was based solely on substance use recovery, but in 2011, it expanded to include mental health recovery as well (2019).
National Recovery Month needs to be recognized because of the broad range of societal and individual stigma that still persists. Because of stigma and shame, many people’s stories of recovery and resilience are left untold. Yet, National Recovery Month seeks to change that shame so others can feel comfortable coming forward. This is an honorable goal because stigma often hinders recovery for those with mental illness and substance use disorders. Self-stigma, which describes the internalization of societal stigma, forces individuals to believe that there’s no hope or chance of recovery. People who have more self-efficacy and internal belief of being able to change their situations are less likely to internalize stigma (Corrigan, 2018). The unbroken cycle of stigma prevents care. Yet, getting adequate care and being able to live a healthy life reduces this stigma. The cycle of shame must be broken.
Some researchers believe that the stigma can be as damaging as the disorders themselves. It is powerful in dissuading people from getting the treatment they need. The fact that far less research is being done on mental health and substance use than on physical illnesses is part of the problem. Plus, there are far fewer resources for those affected with mental illness and substance use. Some people affected even avoid going to treatment for fear of being found out and being associated with negative stereotypes (Association for Psychological Science).
However, there are ways to reduce these discrepancies. National Recovery Month is instrumental in making improvements to societal and individual stigma. The promotion of recovery stories is essential, with which this month’s theme is geared. It takes great courage and resilience to seek help and be honest about that help with the world. The more people participate, the greater good it will do. Outreach activities between not only healthcare entities but public schools, workplaces, the media and the government need to be more of a reality as well. As September progresses, National Recovery Month will continue to encourage and uplift those who need it most.
2019. About Recovery Month. Retrieved from: https://recoverymonth.gov/about-recovery-month
Association for Psychological Science. (2014). Stigma as a Barrier to Mental Health Care. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140905113951.htm
Corrigan, Patrick. (2018). The Stigma of Mental Illness is a Major Hurdle to Recovery. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-stigma-effect/201811/the-stigma-mental-il lness-is-major-hurdle-recovery