Recent stories of violent crime in the media have not only left local communities shaken, they have led to a focus in public conversations on how individuals suffering with serious mental illness and substance abuse issues are making our communities unsafe.
These individuals continue to be misunderstood and marginalized by society. The mentally ill who struggle with substance abuse generally do not commit crimes. Only a very small part of this population exhibits violent behaviour; however, it is this population that often gets highlighted in the media.
The fact is that about one in five people will experience a mental disorder or substance abuse problem in their lifetime. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with mental illness and drug or alcohol abuse often prevents those who have early onset challenges from getting the help they need and preventing a more serious health issue from developing.
It is time to recognize that mental illness and substance use is not just something that happens to “them’.” Mental health and substance abuse impact our co-workers, our families, our friends, and our children. We need to continue to have conversations about mental illness and substance abuse, but in a way that emphasizes rehabilitation and recovery, not the stigma.
Andy Libbiter, Executive Director
Mental Health & Substance Use