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.”
Accessing and paying for mental health care can be tricky. Many mental health professionals do not work directly with insurance, and those who do can have very long wait lists. But did you know that there are some other ways you can pay for mental health care with the assistance of employer-run programs?
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). These programs are offered by many employers (large and small). EAPs allow employees to see a contracted mental health professional for 3-10 sessions per year free of charge. Yes, free! Too often, employees don’t know this is a benefit to which they are entitled. So ask your manager or HR department for more information.
Health Savings Accounts/Flex Spending Accounts/Medical Savings Accounts. These aren’t technically a benefit as this is money that you put away pre-tax to use for approved medical expenses. So, your employer doesn’t (usually) give you the money for the accounts, but many do facilitate the opening of such an account. Again, ask your manager or HR department for details.
Seem to have more of everything (money, success, friends, possessions) than you
Appear better at their job than you
Whatever the specifics, it’s actually not all that unusual to have feelings of jealousy – particularly at work as we spend so much time with our co-workers. But what can you do to tame the green monster?
Check out my recent article over at Health eCareers for ideas about to 1) decipher why exactly you’re having jealous feelings 2) what to do about them.
For others, this season of the year elicits a reaction more like this:
Or if you’re like me, the impending holidays have you doing this:
Whatever your reaction, the last quarter of the year likely brings up some “stuff” for you:
Sadness over things, people and relationships you’ve lost
Frustration over things you cannot have
Gratitude for the people, things and relationships you do have
Sense of anxiety over the crowds, noise and busy-ness that can accompany this time of year
Feelings of loneliness over the lack of busy-ness this time of year
You get the idea
It can be helpful to talk about these things with a psychologist. Friends and family are great, but sometimes we need an impartial ear to listen. To make an appointment, call 303-828-3080 or email: email@example.com
We’re well into the school year, so those first-day-of-school jitters and nerves have likely subsided. But in case some still remains, here are some tips I wrote about managing school anxiety over at Produce for Kids:
I don’t care who you are, where you stand, what you believe or who you are voting for, the political news has been overwhelming. Last week I spoke to the folks over at Self Magazine for some ideas about how to cope with the hourly onslaught of news (and talking about news, and more talking about news) that we’ve all been trying to deal with. Here’s the entire article:
Here’s one of my tips:
There are a bunch of others, too. Including some helpful links on how to do progressive muscle relaxation, where to go to find a good laugh, and where to turn if you need to talk to a professional.