Holiday season affecting those struggling with addiction, mental health experts weigh in
DELMARVA – As festive lights, gifts, and caroling flood homes and streets for Christmas, for some this time of year can be triggering.
According to mental health experts, this is also a time when some battling mental health issues or addictions seem to struggle the most.
“There’s such a stigma around mental health and addiction and it keeps so many people from seeking treatment,” says Christina Bowie-Simpson, Opioid Coordinator for Wicomico County. She adds, “We think it’s joyous and for a lot of people it is joyous but for those struggling with mental health or addiction, it’s hard you know?”
Dr. Michael Finegan, Ph.D., the Director at Peninsula Addiction and Mental Health services tells 47 ABC, some people are losing their motivation, their relationships, and even worse, their lives.
“The holidays are a particular time where individuals are more distressed, there can be a sense of loneliness, comparing their life now to lives when perhaps life was better,” says Dr. Finegan.
According to Bowie-Simpson, drug-related deaths have only gotten worse over the years. “Nationwide, there’s been 100,000 people who have died from an overdose, that’s the highest number reported on record.”
The stigma surrounding mental health and addiction is a hurdle many have to overcome. Experts say, those affected by addiction specifically are sometimes patients who are the result of prescribing practices.
“These are not bad people, these are people who were following doctors’ orders,” says Dr. Finegan. He adds, “And those doctors were following the recommendations of experts saying these drugs are not going to get people addicted.”
However, one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding mental health and addiction, is whether or not it’s a choice or a disease. And according to Dr. Finegan who’s had years of experience, he tells us drug addiction is just like obesity, or hypertension.
“It’s a chronic disease that can be well managed and if we manage it, it doesn’t have to take our life away,” says Dr. Finegan.
Bowie-Simpson and Dr. Finegan both say, sometimes it’s just about taking that first step, recognizing you have a problem, accepting it, and reaching out for help, which for some, can be difficult.
“It is not a sign of weakness to get help, it is a sign of strength when we can say we need support,” says Dr. Finegan. He adds, “But it starts with the foundation of honesty, with self and honesty, with others that we are suffering and that we do have a problem. This is not a moral failing, this is a disease that needs to be addressed.”
Meanwhile, Bowie-Simpson tells 47 ABC, during the holidays is a critical time to check on loved ones, or reach out if you’re struggling, build the support system.
“Just reaching out to for help because there are folks available and there are folks that want to help you and you are worthy of that help.,” says Bowie-Simpson. She adds, “We’re just hustling, and bustle and it’s so easy to get overwhelmed so just take a moment and be kind to others and be kind to yourself.”
Local health experts also tell 47 ABC, having Narcan nasal spray on hand is essential for those who are taking opioids or struggling with addiction.
To learn more about mental health resources, click here.