I was reading an article recently about Farm Stress, and the overall mental health crisis that is going on within our country’s farming communities. The pain and suffering is real, and very upsetting.
While I am not a farmer or rancher, I can try to understand the extreme conditions of the job: It’s physically dangerous, unpredictable because of weather, crop prices, and international relationships. Farmers are also making up a smaller and smaller portion of our population (less than 2%), and tend to be more geographically spread out than in years past. All of these factors – and others – combine to create a pressure-cooker of stress.
People are taking notice, however, and working hard to help those who are suffering. I discovered some wonderful resources through North Dakota State University. Here’s one:
For more information on farm stress and how to cope, check out this article:
After reading the last few posts about alcohol, drugs, and addiction; do you think you know someone who is struggling with some or all of these behaviors and symptoms? Watching someone you care about abuse substances can be painful. And it can also lead us to feel helpless in knowing how to help them. Obviously, we cannot force someone to abstain from use and become sober. Likewise, we cannot force them into treatment against their will. What we can do, however, is offer support, knowledge, and resources around addiction treatment.
Navigating the world of addiction recovery and treatment is tricky, so by becoming informed yourself, you can aide your friend or family member in understanding where to go to get help when they’re ready.
Luckily, there are a wide range of treatment options available for those wanting to achieve and maintain sobriety. Many experts in addiction treatment recommend that folks have more than one resource or treatment modality on board for the best chance of success. Here are the options:
Detoxification: “Detox” is a service offered by some addiction treatment and hospital facilities. A stay in detox typically lasts three to seven days and is intended to help you safely withdraw from drugs or alcohol with professional medical help. At the end of the stay, patients are referred on to other, longer-term treatment facilities or programs.
Inpatient Treatment: Residential/live-in treatment for addiction is the most intensive option for treatment of alcohol and/or drug addiction. Inpatient treatment can last anywhere from several days to one month or longer. While participating in residential treatment, you can expect to receive: individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, psychiatric/medication services and possibly family psychotherapy in one place.
Intensive Outpatient: Intensive outpatient treatment is a form of addiction treatment in which you continue to live at home while attending treatment sessions three to four days per week, two to four hours at a time. The idea behind intensive outpatient treatment is that you learn to live a sober lifestyle, while also going to school, maintaining employment, taking care of family members - whatever you normally do in life. Intensive outpatient treatment usually includes psycho-educational and psychotherapy groups, family therapy groups, and individual psychotherapy.
Individual Psychotherapy: For people wanting to achieve and maintain sobriety, individual psychotherapy is often recommended. Working one-on-one with a licensed mental health professional can allow you to explore, in a more individual way, your substance abuse and family history. These individual sessions also allow the mental health provider to assess for any underlying mental health disorders (anxiety, depression, etc) that may have been either exacerbated or masked by your substance use.
Group Support: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most well-known example of group support available to alcoholics. AA is a free, peer-led support group that has been around since 1939. AA’s 12-step program has been used for a long time, by many people and is very well established all across the world - making it easy to access for most people. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a very similar program that is specifically for people who struggle with drug (heroine, prescription painkillers, cocaine, etc) addiction. There are many other free, peer-led support groups in most communities across the country. For more information about what is available in your area, try asking your physician, mental health care provider, faith community, employer, or school.
Medication-Assisted Treatment: Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs combine medications and supplements, together with psycho-education to help you achieve and maintain sobriety. Naltrexone, Acamprosate and Disulfiram are some of the medications that are often used to help ease the discomforts of withdrawal symptoms, as well as decrease cravings 8.
If you need assistance immediately, you can always call 9-1-1, or go directly to your nearest emergency room.
With the prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse so high, it stands to reason that most of us will know someone, at some point in our lives, that we suspect is struggling with addiction. So how do you know if your loved one (or you) might have an addiction? Here are some signs of problem use:
Drinking more or longer than you meant to (“I was going to stop drinking by 8pm, but before I knew it, it was midnight and I still had a drink in my hand.”)
You tried to get sober, but it only lasted a few hours or days
You have engaged in risky behavior while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol more than once (for example: driving while impaired, engaging in risky sexual behavior, etc)
You need to use more and more of the substance to feel the same effects (this is also known as tolerance)
You continue to use alcohol or drugs, even though you know it is making another physical condition worse (for example: continuing to vape/smoke cigarettes even though you have lung cancer).
You spend a lot of time using drugs or alcohol, thinking about using, preparing to use, and recovering from your use
You experience conflicts with family, friends, and co-workers over your drug and/or alcohol use, but you continue to use at the same rate anyway
You used to enjoy other things (movies, football, skiing) but you rarely – or never – engage in those activities anymore because your alcohol and drug use takes up so much of your time
You experience symptoms of withdrawal (nausea, hallucinations, tremors) when you stop using your substance(s) of choice
You have gotten in trouble with the law more than once or twice because of your use
Identifying signs and signals of alcohol and drug use and abuse is difficult. Whether we are trying to assess ourselves or someone else, it can be a tricky process that involves honesty and candor. It’s important to remember that only a mental health, substance abuse, or health care professional can accurately and thoroughly complete the diagnostic process.
Problematic use of drugs and alcohol can impact just about all areas of your life and functioning. There are obvious risks of over-using drugs and alcohol that are associated with:
Disruptions in education
Difficulty maintaining employments
Legal troubles/encounters with the criminal justice system
Drug and alcohol use can also cause many physical and mental health problems, including:
Changes in appetite
Changes in blood pressure
Change in mood
Additionally, when you spend much of your time impaired by alcohol or drugs, it can effect your ability to make healthy, sound decisions. Impulsivity and poor decision making are common when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These poor decisions can lead to other health-related problems such as:
HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other communicable diseases
Being at higher risk for trauma or violence
Lastly, drug and alcohol abuse is costly! In fact, it is estimated that alcohol and illicit drug use cost the United States about 160 million dollars each year in lost work productivity, health care costs associated with addiction, and crime.
Alcohol and drug addiction and abuse are an unfortunate part of life for many Americans. Whether it’s by personal experience, or through watching a friend or loved one struggle, millions of Americans have an experience with drug and/or alcohol addiction each year.
In 2014, more than 16 million adults – that’s about 7% of the population – met criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder. Another 5 million American adults admitted to engaging in risky alcohol use that could lead to addiction in the future.
Alcohol is the most heavily used drug in the United States, followed by marijuana. And unfortunately, recent surveys have found that illicit drug use is on the rise in the United States. Illicit drugs include: marijuana, prescription drugs used other than as prescribed, cocaine, heroine, methamphetamines, etc.
Most people use drugs for the first time as teenagers, and more than half of illicit drug users begin their drug use by using marijuana. Drug use tends to be highest among teenagers and those in their twenties, but recent data suggests that drug use is increasing in people in their fifties and sixties as well.
Drug and alcohol use in children and teens is on the decline overall, with one exception: vaping. As of 2018, vaping among young people had increased dramatically, with 17.6% of 8th graders, 32.3% of 10th graders, and 37.3% of 12th graders admitting to vaping at least once in the last year.
Here’s the bad news: Many millions of children in the United States deal with some type of mental illness. Here are some numbers:
9.4% of children aged 2-17 years (approximately 6.1 million) have received an ADHD diagnosis. 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem. 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety. 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression.
That’s a lot of kids! But here’s the good news: stigma around mental illness and psychological disorders is decreasing as more programs take aim at eradicating incorrect assumptions about mental health disorders and their treatments.
One of the best ways we can combat stigma around mental illness is by talking to our kids early and often about mental health and illness, as well as psychological treatment. The more we normalize these types of discussions, the better. Here are some tips for talking to your kids about mental health:
Be open about your own emotions. One way to help your kids become used to sharing their emotions, is by sharing your own on a regular basis. In a developmentally appropriate manner (i.e., using simple brief concepts with young kids, and progressively more complex words and concepts with older kids), try talking clearly about your own feelings: “Geez, that hurt my feelings when I didn’t get invited to Jenny’s birthday party,” or “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with all the work deadlines I have this month,” or “I am so proud of the hard work you put into that homework assignment”
Be open about how you manage your psychological health. Try sharing with your kids what you do to manage your mental mental health. Sharing things like: “I’m going to be taking a walk this evening. It was a tough day at work, and the fresh air helps me feel less stressed.” or “I am feeling a little down today, I think I might call Grandma. Talking to her always helps me feel better.” Again, we want to keep these conversations developmentally appropriate, and our kids aren’t our therapists. However, sharing the healthy strategies we use to manage our emotions will provide them a template for when they need strategies to manage their own psychological health.
Make talking about mental health an everyday thing. We don’t need to talk about the state of our kids’ mental health every single day, but it’s best if it can be a pretty regular occurrence – say, a couple of times per week, for example. We want to get to a point where speaking about emotions and mental health is just as easy and normal as talking about the soccer team, your favorite TV show or the new super hero movie you want to see. Here are some questions to get you started: –”What are you excited about these days?” “What’s on your mind right now?” “How would you describe your mood today?” “What are you worried about?”
The possibilities are endless, and each family needs to find their own, unique language for talking about mental health. But here’s a quick tip: Try asking questions that are open-ended, these tend to produce much more interesting conversations than those that can be answered by a simple “yes” or “no.”
A big part of my job is connecting people with resources for helping and maintaining good mental health. The mental health system in the United States in enormous, not very well connected, poorly understood, and hard to access. There are a lot of resources out there (many are even very low cost or free!) but they can be hard to find if you’re not immersed in the mental health community. And really, who is?
I’ve compiled a list of some resources that I have found helpful over the years. Do you have more to add? Let me know!
Medicare – Medicare is the government-sponsored health insurance program for older Americans. Millions and millions of Americans use their Medicare coverage everyday to access health care of all types. Did you know Medicare also covers mental health treatment? Check it out to find a provider.
I love listening to podcasts! I took me a while to get into it, but now I’m hooked. You know what’s also fun? Being on a podcast! I have gotten the opportunity to be on several different podcasts over the years, and one of my favorites is Produce for Kids’ podcast: The Healthy Family Project. If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s worth a listen!
They have a number of new episodes up, including Food as Medicine and How to Get Kids in the Kitchen – along with their huge collection of awesome, healthy and easy recipes. Check it out!
Want to hear one of my interviews? Check out this one about promoting healthy body image in kids: