Throughout much of America’s history addiction and mental illness shared a dark past in which people who lived with the disorders were blamed for their condition and treatment was rarely available. Each disorder was considered to be intractable and stories of recovery were rare. People living with addiction and/or mental illness were expected to end up in the least favorable places in society -- in the gutter, prisons, asylums, or morgues. They also faced rejection by family, friends, and communities, and occupied a common space of disgrace in society. Families of people living with mental health and addiction disorders were silenced by shame and the prejudice and discrimination associated with these conditions. Recovery Month is writing a new chapter in American history by bringing addiction and mental illness into the light and honoring the many pathways to recovery.
Twenty-eight years ago, Recovery Month began as a campaign and celebration to change the public face of recovery. The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) website states that “Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for substance use and mental disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible.” Each September since 1989 thousands of people across the United States publicly celebrate their recovery in an effort to increase awareness that satisfying and purposeful lives are possible for people in recovery from mental illness and addiction. Throughout its history Recovery Month has inspired individuals, families, and communities to realize that recovery is possible when effective prevention, treatment, and recovery support are available for those who need them.
This year’s Recovery Month theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together on Pathways to Wellness,” celebrates the many ways that people and communities can prevent behavioral health issues, access treatment, and sustain recovery. The theme emphasizes the importance of mental, physical, and emotional health, and the value of family, friends, and communities in supporting the recovery journey.
To highlight the importance of this year’s focus on health and wellness, the Recovery Month website offers over twenty-five free self-help videos that support self-care in recovery. Topics include stress management, healthy sleep, managing grief, and many more. The website will link you to Recovery Month events in your own community. The website also provides a useful toolkit that SAMHSA created to increase awareness of the power of recovery. The toolkit provides individuals and organizations with the resources that they need to help people with mental and/or substance use disorders. It also assists in planning Recovery Month events and offers resources to distribute during local events. Materials produced for Recovery Month include print, web, television, radio and social media tools. These resources help local communities to reach out and encourage individuals in need of services, and their friends and families, to seek treatment and recovery services and information. Materials provide multiple resources, including SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662 HELP (4357) for information and treatment referral and SAMHSA's Treatment information at http://www.samhsa.gov.
Recovery Month events are as varied as the pathways to recovery. One community sponsors a conference with inspirational and educational speakers; another hosts a community meal followed by Native American dancers and drummers; while still another holds a 5-K run followed by a celebration in the park. These events bring together people in recovery, family, friends, service providers, politicians, and community members. While the activities may differ, the message remains the same that recovery is possible when services and supports are available to individuals, families, and communities.
Recovery Month provides us all an opportunity to write a new story about experiences of mental illness, addiction, and recovery. No longer do individuals, families and communities have to endure shame and isolation because of mental illness and addiction. They can now come together to celebrate the possibility of recovery. This September, join the voices for recovery! Everyone is welcome. What are you doing to observe Recovery Month?
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