Ben Brafman: Mental Health Month Adds to Awareness

By Ben Brafman Sun Sentinel May 21, 2012 Mental health conditions are diagnosable and treatable for many people. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people to suffer from both mental health and substance abuse, a condition we call "dual diagnosis" or "co-occurring" disorders. May is National Mental Health Month, a time when we aim to increase awareness about mental health conditions and the accessibility of treatment. For some, especially those with substance abuse issues, diagnosis and treatment can be a challenge. Those who struggle with dual diagnosis face enormous challenges in receiving effective care and drug treatment. First, diagnosis can be extremely difficult, as addiction can mimic mental illness. Second, mental health centers are often ill-equipped to treat both the mental health and substance abuse issues, while the average treatment center is unable to properly treat mental illness. It is critical to recognize and address the mental health issues of substance abuse in order to put a person on the path to sobriety. Dual diagnosis treatment programs are highly specialized to address both disorders. Those who suffer should look for gender specific programs, designed to address the unique needs of men and women, and programs designed around empowering families that include family therapy. Family involvement, especially for dual diagnosis treatment, is considered one of the most effective tools for maintaining sobriety. Small and intimate programs are available in our community for those who need more personalized attention and care. It is important that a person suffering from substance abuse be evaluated for mental health disorders. Ben Brafman is founder and CEO of Destination Hope, a nationally recognized Fort Lauderdale-based treatment facility that specializes in treating mental health and addiction problems.
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