Talking to your Children about Substance Misuse

Talking to your Children about Substance Misuse

No one likes to have difficult conversations, especially with their kids. But avoiding talking to your children about substance misuse can have major consequences. At Healthy365, we seek to help individuals and families that have been affected by addiction, substance misuse and other mental health conditions concerning mood, thinking and behavior. Learn more about why and how we recommend talking to your children about substance misuse – even from a young age!

When should I start talking about substance misuse?

The exact age that you should begin talking about drugs and alcohol will depend on your child. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “When parents talk with their children early and often about alcohol and other drugs, they can protect their children from many of the high-risk behaviors associated with using these drugs.” Some experts say that 5-7 is a good age to start the conversation, especially since studies have shown that children as young as nine may start to see alcohol in a positive way. 

It’s also better to talk about drugs and alcohol before your children are directly exposed to it, and that age is getting younger all the time. SAMHSA reports that roughly 3,300 children as young as 12 try marijuana each day and about 10% of 12-year-olds say they have tried alcohol. Additionally, about 50% of kids young as 12 have used prescription pain relief for nonmedical purposes. Anytime that your child is asking about drugs or alcohol, that is a good sign that they are ready for an age-appropriate conversation.

How do I talk to my young child about substance misuse?

For young children, organic teachable moments are an ideal time to bring up substance misuse. If someone is drinking wine with dinner, you can talk about what it means to drink responsibly. If you see a TV commercial for beer or a movie character smoking, you can talk about these substances and the negative effects they can have on our bodies. Especially if the users seem to be enjoying themselves, you can talk about how drinking too much can cause someone to make bad decisions, and how doing something like drinking and driving can hurt themselves and others.

Whenever you’re talking to your children about substance misuse, be sure to keep your tone calm and use words that they can understand. And as KidsHealth says, be sure to “teach kids early on how to say no if someone offers them something they know is dangerous.” Younger children are more likely to be willing to talk to their parents about tough subjects, and starting the conversation now can help keep that door of communication open as they grow older.

What is the harm in avoiding talking about it?

Although most schools discuss substance misuse to some degree, it is still important to talk about it with your children so that you know they have all the facts. Not talking about alcohol or drugs could send the message to your kids that trying them out is not too harmful, or that you, as their parents, won’t mind. Set clear rules for your children and teens to establish how your family feels about substance misuse, including the natural consequences that they could face from experimenting with drugs and alcohol. You could also decide together on a “code word” that they can call or text you with to let you know that they are in a situation where drugs or alcohol are present and they need to be picked up – no questions asked.

You might also feel the need to avoid talking about substance misuse if you have a loved one with addiction or in recovery. However, children who have a family history of addiction are more likely to struggle with substance misuse themselves, due to a combination of both environmental and genetic factors. According to MentalHealth.net, “first-degree relatives (i.e, a sibling, parent, or child) of someone with a history of addiction are between 4 to 8 times more likely to develop problems with addiction themselves.” In these cases, it’s even more important to have regular conversations about substance misuse. If you are an adult over 18 who has a loved one affected by addiction, the Healthy365 CRAFT workshop can offer support and communication techniques to use in your family.

If you need more tips for talking to your children about substance misuse, or are in need of support for your own addiction, the Healthy365 Connection Center is here to help. Contact us today at 317-468-4231 or stop by our offices at 120 W. McKenzie Rd. in Greenfield to talk to a Support Navigator.

How Children Struggle When Parents Misuse Substances

How Children Struggle When Parents Misuse Substances

Much focus is placed on the individuals who suffer from substance misuse disorders, but less so is given to the family, friends and loved ones who are also affected. Children especially are heavily impacted when parents misuse substances like alcohol, opioids or other drugs. We’re exploring the various ways that substance misuse can create struggles for an entire family — and how to get both parents and children the help they need. 

What happens when parents misuse substances?

According to the Children of Alcoholics Foundation, roughly seven million Americans under the age of 18 live with at least one parent who misuses alcohol. Children of an alcoholic could be affected as early as in utero if their mother drinks while pregnant. Studies show that “children from alcoholic families experience more physical, emotional and mental health problems than other youngsters.” They have to cope with the stress of their parents exhibiting emotional problems or irrational behavior and may even experience abuse or neglect. 

What are ACEs?

Children who live in a home with someone who misuses substances are likely to accumulate several ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences. According to the CDC, ACEs are potentially traumatic events that occur from the age of 0-17, which can include (but are not limited to) experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect or witnessing violence in the home or community. Children of parents who misuse substances may also experience the ACE of living in an “environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding.” 

ACEs are often preventable, but unfortunately, they can have a lasting impact on individuals who experience them. Someone who has grown up with toxic stress, like living with a parent suffering from addiction, may have a hard time forming healthy or stable relationships in the future. They can struggle with finances, have an unstable work history, and may repeat patterns or further exposure to toxic stress, “due to systemic racism or the impacts of poverty resulting from limited educational and economic opportunities.” Some racial/ethnic minority groups, as well as women, are at greater risk for experiencing multiple types of ACEs.

If you are interested in learning more about ACEs and whether you have experienced any of them, you can take an ACEs quiz at americanspcc.org/take-the-aces-quiz

Help for children when parents misuse substances

Most people have heard of AA or NA, also known as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, respectively. But did you know that there are also similar support group organizations for those who have loved ones with an addiction? Al-Anon is “a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking.” Locally in Greenfield, these individuals can find support groups located at Bradley United Methodist, Amity United Methodist and The Way Out Club. Teens who are struggling with the effects of someone else’s drinking can attend an Alateen support group, with local options at Trinity Lutheran Church in Indianapolis or Ascension St. Vincent Anderson Center in Anderson.

The Support Navigators at the Healthy365 Connection Center can also provide a non-judgmental confidential listening ear for families and children affected by loved ones who misuse substances. We would be honored to connect you to local organizations and resources that can alleviate your suffering and improve your family’s overall wellness. Over the last few years, our Support Navigators have developed hundreds of meaningful relationships, partnered with numerous local organizations and offered support to many local families and individuals in their journey towards better mental health and freedom from substance misuse.

Contact us at 317-468-4231 or visit the Connection Center at 120 W. McKenzie Rd. Suite G in Greenfield to work with a Support Navigator today!

Mental Health in the LGBTQ+ Community

Mental Health in the LGBTQ+ Community

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, a time to celebrate and honor those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community. Pride is celebrated in June in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, often known as one of the first major demonstrations for gay liberation. At Healthy365, we serve and respect everyone in our local Central Indiana community, no matter your sexual or gender identity, and we also recognize that this population may be in greater need of our services. Let’s explore why mental health should be an important focus for those in the LGBTQ+ community.

Higher rates of mental health issues

According to the American Psychiatric Association, LGBTQ+ individuals are “2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse compared with heterosexual individuals.” It is very important to note that being LGBTQ+ is not a mental disorder, as recognized by all major professional mental health organizations, but that the stigma and discrimination faced by this population can correlate with higher rates of mental health issues. 

Many LGBTQ+ individuals report that they have experienced discrimination when trying to access health services, and some may put off or avoid healthcare/treatment altogether because of this stigma. People in this community may also have less social support than others, including from family and close friends. This isolation and trauma can have major impacts on mental health, including comorbid disorders such as anxiety, substance misuse, depression, PTSD or suicidal thoughts. 

Marginalized communities within LGBTQ+

Although LGBTQ+ individuals, in general, are more likely to be victims of violence and discrimination, there are even smaller subsections of the community that are at a higher risk of mental health concerns. For example, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), transgender individuals “are almost four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a substance use disorder.” 

Further, transgender individuals who identify as Black, Latino, Native American or Mixed Race are at an even higher risk of suicide attempts than the white transgender population. Young people in the LGBTQ+ community also experience higher rates of mental health concerns, with a four times higher rate of suicide attempts for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and two times higher for questioning youth compared to straight teens. 

How allies and education can help

Recognizing these statistics is an important first step to helping those in the LGBTQ+ community. If you have a loved one who identifies with a sexual or gender identity that is different from your own, you can actively listen to their needs and offer support wherever you can. Educate yourself on how to be a good ally, including asking respectful questions, taking the LGBTQ+ person’s lead on inclusive language, and asking for preferred pronouns/offering your own. If you make a mistake in how you refer to someone, apologize sincerely and try again. 

Pride celebrations, like our local Indy Pride in Indianapolis, are another great way for LGBTQ+ individuals to connect with others and feel less alone. Increasing visibility is very validating when many in this population may feel isolated within their family or a small town. Feeling connected to a community can have wonderful benefits for positive mental health, so celebrating Pride and the rich history of the LGBTQ+ population, even as an ally, can make a big difference in showing others you care. 

At Healthy365, our Support Navigators are happy to provide a confidential listening ear to our clients and would be honored to connect you or a loved one with an LGBTQ+ affirming mental health professional. Contact us today at 317-468-4231 to learn more about the services we can provide for those struggling with mental health, substance misuse and more. And once again, Happy Pride!

Mindfulness-Based Support for Your Recovery

Mindfulness-Based Support for Your Recovery

Have you ever heard of mindfulness? According to Mindful.org, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Although mindfulness is something that everyone possesses, practicing mindfulness and/or meditation daily can have a great impact on your mental health. Learn more about how you can use mindfulness-based support for your recovery from substance misuse or mental illness. 

How does mindfulness work?

In traditional treatment for substance misuse, your goals may focus more on avoiding or controlling triggers that could cause you to have a craving for drugs or alcohol. These triggers may be certain habits, locations, people and more. Although this can be an effective approach for some people, many still find themselves relapsing within a year or less. With a mindfulness practice, such as Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) developed by Sarah Bowen at the University of Washington, your substance misuse treatment focuses on redirecting thought patterns, increasing awareness and creating better balance

Your thoughts are just thoughts

A great example of mindfulness is recognizing harmful thought patterns and redirecting them. For example, in traditional treatment, someone with a substance use disorder may be asked to avoid triggers, like a setting where alcohol is present. While this may be helpful coming directly out of a rehab or in-patient treatment, it is likely not realistic to do at all times. Mindfulness can teach you to identify these thoughts and recognize that they are just thoughts and not your reality. If you let thoughts of relapse consume you, it is more likely to happen. Instead of allowing destructive thoughts, harmful ideas or negative self-talk to rule your brain, mindfulness helps you to recognize your discomfort and choose to respond to it differently. 

Being present in the moment

Many people who face a substance use disorder (and/or comorbid mental health issues) are using substances as a way to escape from the stress of daily life. Mindfulness-based support can help combat addiction and anxiety by helping you to feel more present in reality, rather than focusing on worries of the future (such as a fear of relapse) or replaying distressing situations from the past (such as binges or fights with loved ones). When you better root yourself in the present moment, you are more likely to find joy in the little things instead of using a substance to escape. 

Mindfulness-based breathing techniques

Breathwork is another common mindfulness practice to keep yourself present. Obviously, we all have to breathe all day long, but taking deep breaths can increase oxygen flow to your brain, calming your nervous system. The simple act of taking a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth can totally refresh your mind, especially if you find yourself in a “fight or flight” situation, like when faced with drugs or alcohol. Practicing deep breathing can sometimes seem silly – of course we all know how to breathe – but having a few favorite techniques can make it much easier to call upon them and better calm yourself when stressed. 

Social support for your recovery

Another aspect of mindfulness is making connections with others. Some mindfulness-based support therapy may call this your “circle of compassion.” As you focus inwardly to reduce judgment and negative self-talk, you can also extend that compassion to others, especially in seeking support for your recovery and sobriety. Mindfulness can help you recognize that you are not alone – everyone has things that they struggle with, whether it’s substance misuse, mental health concerns or any number of difficulties. And you can also recognize that everyone is deserving of compassion and grace when faced with triggers or hard situations, including yourself!

If you are looking for local substance misuse treatment for yourself or a loved one, we encourage you to contact one of our Support Navigators at Healthy365 by calling 317-468-4231. We would be honored to provide you with a sympathetic and confidential listening ear in order to connect you with the best treatment for your needs. 

Super Staff Series: Heidi Carmichael

Super Staff Series: Heidi Carmichael

The newest member of the Healthy365 team is our administrative assistant Heidi Carmichael. She is excited to serve the Hancock County community by connecting individuals with Support Navigators, as well as the myriad of mental health and substance misuse resources offered by Hancock Health and other local organizations. Next time you call the Healthy365 Connection Center, make sure to say hello to Heidi!

Experience in healthcare and beyond

Before entering the field of healthcare, Heidi spent a number of years working for a Midwest-based gas station and convenience store company. “I used to work for what was formerly GasAmerica in several different departments,” said Heidi, including payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable. A little over a decade ago, she chose to transition into healthcare, a field she has become quite passionate about. 

“I have been in healthcare for 10 years now,” said Heidi. “I previously worked with Trilogy Health Services in admissions and marketing for a skilled nursing and assisted living facility.” When Healthy365 was looking to expand the team with a new administrative assistant, Heidi was excited to apply. “I was introduced to Healthy365 by a current coworker at Hancock Health, who I previously worked with in another healthcare setting,” she said. “I was ready to make a change from the location I was in.”

Joining the Healthy365 team

Although Heidi is a recent addition to Healthy365, she already feels at home. “I like the positive and supportive environment,” she said. Despite the serious nature of our work, the Healthy365 team makes it a point to both work hard and play hard, and Heidi has especially enjoyed getting to know the fun-loving environment at the Connection Center. “There is a lot of positive reinforcement,” she said. “And there are lots of fun pranks.”

In her work as administrative assistant, Heidi is often the first point of contact with individuals calling into Healthy365 for help. “I like to connect with people and help them find a navigator to manage their needs,” she explained. Heidi is also excited to see the Healthy365 Connection Center continue to grow our substance misuse resources for clients in need of this specific support. 

Serving the Hancock County community

A resident of neighboring Henry County, Heidi looks forward to serving her fellow Hoosiers as a member of the Healthy365 team. “My favorite thing about Hancock County is how it is a very close-knit community,” said Heidi. Like many of our clients and staff members, Heidi is continuing to learn about the wide variety of local organizations that are dedicated to serving Hancock County. “It’s also very supportive with lots of resources I’m learning,” she said.

Heidi and her husband of nearly 30 years, Gabe, also have a special connection to the local agricultural population. “Our family, previously alongside Gabe’s dad, is part of the farming community in Hancock and Henry Counties, which have a major rural agriculture focus.” Her family includes three children, one at Purdue, one at Ball State and one who just graduated as a Ball State Cardinal. Heidi also has a four-legged family member: “My favorite thing is to go home and just hang out with our dog, Boomer.”

Rapid-fire questions:

If you were a superhero, what superpower would you have?  

“Teleporting … travel time totally stinks!”

What is your favorite Indiana season and why?  

“Fall, because of the color and it’s cooler, no humidity.”

What is your favorite way to kick off a Monday? 

“Coffee!”

What’s your most recent favorite read, movie or show? 

“Yellowstone and 1883, I am completely addicted.”