Stigma and Shame Prevent Treatment of Substance Abusers

This past week has been Mental Awareness Week, culminating in World Mental Health Day, a day observed by The World Federation for Mental Health Education Awareness and Advocacy.

There is a strong link between drug abuse and mental illness.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people with mental health disorders such as Schizophrenia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder also have a substance use disorder (co-occurring disorders).  Half of individuals who have either a mental illness or a substance use disorder will have the other at some point in their lives.

Yet fewer than 10% of those with addiction recognize they have mental illness and seek treatment.  Why?  Because of the shame and stigma surrounding mental health and addiction.  These fears cause those who would benefit from treatment to avoid it despite the alarming statistics:

  • Suicide is 2nd leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 29.
  • Addiction is the number 1 cause of accidental deaths in the United States.
  • According to, psychological disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder and trauma-related disorders, are rampant among inmates.  Mental illness itself is a risk factor for landing in jail.

Here are some national resources for mental health treatment:





Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.

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