Trauma and shame are often intertwined with addiction and substance misuse. For many people, it’s an endless, frustrating cycle:
Shame causes feelings of pain, self-loathing, and isolation.
Individuals seek to numb these feelings with substances like drugs or alcohol.
Substance misuse leads to more shame, which fuels continued issues and insecurities.
Shame can be caused by several factors. These include traumatic experiences, personal insecurities, internalized negative beliefs and a lack of love and validation from others. Let’s dig deeper into the root causes of shame and how it can affect a person’s ability to ask for help.
What is shame?
Shame is often used as a synonym for guilt, but these two emotions are very different. Guilt implies a feeling of despair or sadness over something you did. Your moral compass is telling you that you should not have done something. Shame, on the other hand, is an internal emotion where you focus on your whole self, rather than an action. It may not be related to a behavior or event. Instead, your brain is telling you that you are somehow inadequate and unworthy of love and acceptance.
Trauma is sometimes – but not always – a contributor to shame. A child who is abused at home or bullied at school may internalize these messages and believe they are inadequate as a person. An adult who has been mistreated by someone they love or trust may blame themselves instead of holding the other person responsible. These feelings of shame can take over, manifesting as low self-esteem or even self-loathing. Over time, these can lead to isolation or insecurity, both fertile grounds for addiction and substance misuse.
How can shame and trauma lead to addiction?
Shame can permeate the spirit. It has been linked to depression, mental illness and addiction as its victims struggle to cope with their feelings. While some people may be able to enjoy the subtle warmth and calmness that can come with a glass of alcohol, a person who is dealing with shame may grab onto alcohol’s numbing qualities like a life preserver in a turbulent sea. Unfortunately, the waves keep crashing and they find themselves reaching for that life preserver again and again. To continue the analogy, the life preserver or substance is never enough to stop the waves, and the shame of needing that life preserver leads to additional negativity and isolation.
Shame can also stand as a barrier between a person and the help they need. A person struggling with the potentially volatile combination of shame and substance misuse may feel they don’t deserve to be helped. They may build a wall around themselves, afraid to be vulnerable and honest with others. They are afraid others will reject them for the very reasons they reject themselves.
It is a vicious cycle. But help is available. With the correct intervention and therapy, mental healthcare professionals can help people break the pattern.
Healing from shame
When someone is seeking help for substance misuse, they also must address the shame that can derail any progress they make. This is not an overnight strategy – healing from shame takes time and often requires the assistance of a counselor or mental health professional. Working together, they may be able to uncover the root causes of shame, whether it came from a traumatic upbringing or a combination of internal and external factors.
People who are dealing with shame and trauma often have a hard time caring for and about themselves. The compassion and grace that are so easy to disperse to other people may be difficult to apply to their own hearts. A counselor may be able to help.
Addressing substance misuse shame
The shame of substance misuse presents its own challenges. The very shame that is fueling substance misuse can be the force that sabotages successful recovery. Trained mental health professionals can help people develop new practices and skills to address substance misuse while also treating the shame that accompanies it.
Everyone deserves to be happy and loved. Read that again. Everyone deserves compassion, even when they believe they are unworthy or inadequate. The Healthy365 Connection Center is here to help anyone who reaches out, whether it’s online or at our offices at 120 W. McKenzie Road in Greenfield. When you reach out to Healthy365, one of our trained support navigators will listen without judgment and work to connect you with local resources. Our free and confidential services are available to all Hancock County residents.
As we venture into the new year, resolve to take care of yourself. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance misuse or other mental health issues, reach out now. You are not alone.
Have you heard about the Mental Health Campaign from the Hancock Health Foundation? Launched early last year, the goal of this $3.5 million campaign is to bring mental illness and substance misuse issues to light in Hancock County — and to bring an end to the darkness and suffering. The campaign has now reached $3 million in generous donations, and we are hoping to finish strong and band together to get our community to the finish line. Are you able to help fund this critical support and resources for Hancock County?
What are the goals of the Mental Health Campaign?
The Hancock Health Foundation’s Mental Health Campaign was started as an honest conversation about the issues of mental health and substance misuse and their impact on Hancock County. But it’s more than just the raising of voices. The $3.5 million goal for the campaign was put in place to fund two new mental health navigators, 10 new licensed social workers, school-based prevention and early intervention services and medication-assisted opioid treatment.
What has the Mental Health Campaign done so far?
So far, the campaign has used generous community donations to make great strides in meeting those goals. Two new social workers have been hired, and navigators have seen 160+ clients. Contracts have been set with two local school systems, and multiple mental health programs have been established within those schools. Additionally, the newly launched RISE program is set to provide dual diagnosis services and medication-assisted treatment for those who need it.
These services are primarily being conducted through the Healthy365 Connection Center, where Support Navigators work as caring community partners, provide a confidential listening ear and connect clients with local resources to overcome life’s many challenges. Even prior to the start of the campaign, Healthy365 was hosting their QPR suicide prevention training and CRAFT support group for individuals who have a loved one in addiction.
Why does the community need this campaign?
Some people might think that local Hancock County residents aren’t impacted by issues with mental health or drugs, but mental illness and substance misuse leave no community or age population untouched. In the U.S. overall, 1 in 4 adults—and 1 in 5 children—live with mental illness. More specifically, Indiana ranks 5th in the nation for states with the worst drug problems and ranks 2nd for youth suicide attempts.
And right here in Hancock County, recent studies show that 65% of our youth report knowing someone who has had serious thoughts of suicide. But with your generous support, you can help us open up about mental health and substance misuse in our community. Early education and intervention about these concerns, particularly in schools, can literally save lives.
Success stories from local residents
Don’t just take it from us. The Healthy365 Connection Center has served hundreds of clients in Hancock County – with life-changing results. Said one client, “I was just ready to walk out and give up. In all honesty, Healthy365 helped me a lot. It has changed so much since someone finally just listened.” And working with a Support Navigator is not just a one-time outreach. “They take the time to listen and get to know you and your needs and help you every step of the way,” said another client. “It’s not just done after one phone call, they really created a relationship with you and keep in touch regularly to make sure you are okay.”
Many individuals in our community have been trying to get help for their mental health or substance misuse for weeks, months or even years. But the Support Navigators are trained to provide a non-judgmental (and confidential) listening ear, as well as a connection to local resources. “I have been searching for help for the last 4-5 years,” said an additional client. “I’ve had overwhelming anxiety and did not know what to do. When I called Healthy365 I didn’t feel brushed to the side due to my history. They took time to listen, understand, and helped me figure out what to do.”
Would you like to learn more about the Hancock Health Foundation or their Mental Health Campaign? Visit their website today. Any support you can generously offer is appreciated as they aim to reach their final campaign goal of $3.5 million in donations.
Have you ever had a mental health screening? October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, and this common practice can be a true life-saver. Let’s explore what happens when you take a screening, how to analyze your results and how organizations like the Healthy365 Connection Center can help you find the support that you need.
What is a mental health screening?
A mental health screening is a quick and simple exam that can help determine the state of your mental wellness. You may receive one of these exams during a visit with your primary care provider if you are exhibiting symptoms of a mental disorder, but many physician’s offices have also made these screenings a standard practice. For example, most people who give birth will receive a screening at their one-week and six-week appointments because postpartum depression can be so prevalent. The purpose of a mental health screening is to diagnose mental conditions and help the recipient find appropriate treatment.
Where might I receive a mental health screening?
As mentioned, you are likely to receive a mental health screening in your primary care provider’s office in order to connect you with a mental health provider. If you are already seeing a mental health professional, they may administer a screening in order to best determine your course of treatment.
Due to the fact that approximately 50% of lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% begin by age 24, organizations like NAMI continue to advocate for periodic screenings in schools. The average delay between symptoms and treatment of a mental health condition is 11 years, and early intervention can bridge that gap. You can also easily access at-home mental health screenings online in order to identify symptoms and seek out treatment.
What happens during a screening?
There are several different types of mental health screenings. You may receive a more generalized screening to check for a variety of mental health symptoms, or you can take a screening based on specific symptoms you have been experiencing. You may want to speak with your healthcare provider or take an online test if you have been noticing common symptoms such as:
Excessive worrying or fear
Major changes in personality, eating habits, and/or sleeping patterns
Dramatic mood swings
Anger, frustration, or irritability
Fatigue and lack of energy
Confused thinking and trouble concentrating
Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
Avoidance of social activities
Thinking about hurting yourself or attempting suicide — if you are feeling suicidal feelings, call the 988 Suicide Lifeline immediately
Many tests pose their questions in the following way, “Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by the following problems,” which you can answer with “not at all, several days, more than half the days, or nearly every day.” With some physicians and mental health care professionals, you may just discuss your symptoms and answer questions aloud. In other cases, you may be asked to fill out a paper or digital questionnaire.
In addition to questions about your mood and behavior, your primary care provider may also give you a physical exam. Sometimes a physical disorder can cause mental health symptoms, such as thyroid disease, and a simple blood test can detect it.
What is the benefit of mental health screenings?
The biggest benefit to taking a mental health screening is earlier identification and intervention for mental health conditions. Many people who are affected by mental disorders will find improvement from medication and/or talk therapy with a mental health professional.
In a recent statement, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that all doctors should issue regular screenings for anxiety in adults under 65, even if they do not present symptoms. According to the Associated Press, “the recommendations are based on a review that began before the COVID-19 pandemic, evaluating studies showing potential benefits and risks from screening,” and given the surge in mental health concerns during the past few years, this guidance makes more sense than ever.
If you have taken a recent screening and/or would like to access help from a mental health professional, you can contact a Support Navigator at the Healthy365 Connection Center. Our team provides free and confidential services to walk alongside you and your family and connect you with local resources to support your mental health journey. Call us at 317-468-4231 today!
The Healthy365 Connection Center has a new team member! We are proud to welcome Connor McCarty, who will be serving our team as a Support Navigator with a special focus on clients and families within the justice system. His past social work and child welfare experience makes him the perfect fit for this role and we can’t wait to see our connections with the justice system continue to grow!
A background in child welfare
Connor is a familiar face at the Connection Center because of his past working relationships with his fellow Support Navigators. “I first got involved with Healthy365 through Christina Dewitt, she and I have worked together for about 7 years through social work,” said Connor. “She mentioned what she was doing here and that they were launching their justice program.”
Connor got his professional start in child welfare and has been serving Central Indiana for nearly a decade. “I have been in social work for about 10 years now. I have been working in child welfare for over six years,” he said. “When I was doing my undergrad I did various placements typically related to child welfare, and the majority of my professional work has been at the Department of Child Services.”
Transitioning into the justice system
When you think about working with clients in the justice system, you may just think about those who are incarcerated or on probation. However, families and children who have loved ones in the justice system are also largely affected. “I have worked very closely with the justice program because a lot of our clients overlap,” explained Connor. “I have worked directly with clients that have been in jail or prison, and that have transitioned out and worked with probation. I’ve learned to work collaboratively with them.”
A lot to love about Healthy365
Connor started working at the Healthy365 Connection Center just about a month ago on June 20, but it didn’t take much time for him to fall in love with the environment. “It is an amazing environment to work in and very supportive. Healthy365 is really client-driven and I love that,” said Connor.
He also appreciates how passionate Healthy365 is about our clients. “I love that the client is truly the main focus,” he said. “Everything we do relates to how this is going to benefit the client and, in turn, our community.”
Unsurprisingly, one of his favorite programs at the Connection Center is one that can benefit children and families: “We can help link families to get coverage for health insurance. It’s an awesome resource because it’s not just Medicaid or the marketplace, it’s all of them. We can help families identify what works best for them and get them applied.”
A heart for Hancock County
Connor has a special place in his heart for local residents because he is one as well. “I’ve lived in Hancock County for about six and half years,” he said. “I lived in New Pal for most of that and then I recently relocated to Greenfield.” He also appreciates both the professional and personal benefits to be found here locally. “It’s a great community as far as collaboration,” he said. “It’s so easy to build those connections and relationships with people. I’ve worked in other counties and that is not always the case.”
Like many Hancock County locals, Connor loves the “small town” feel that can be found alongside a number of “big city” amenities. “I know a lot of people love that ‘small town feeling,’ but there are a lot of things to do and I love that it’s growing,” he said. “I love being able to be part of that growth, not just in this role but as a community member and being able to benefit from it.”
If you were a superhero, what superpower would you have?
“Telekinesis… I would probably never get up.”
What is your favorite Indiana season and why?
“I love the springtime because I love the outdoors. I love getting our garden and our yard ready for summer, planting and getting things pruned and cleaned up from the winter – that’s the best time.”
What is your favorite way to kick off a Monday?
“If I’m being honest, it would be to drive through and get a McDonald’s Coke, and then show up to work and I am ready to go.”
What’s your most recent favorite read, movie, or show?
“We just started Season 2 of ‘The Umbrella Academy’ on Netflix. I’m trying not to binge because we want to extend it but it’s awesome. Elliot Page is in it as a trans character, and as supporting and being in the community I love to see it. Sometimes I think major networks try to exaggerate real life and so it’s really refreshing to see it done well, in my opinion.”
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.
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!