Today’s speakers — Stacie Leap, Jeff Shair, Frank Dietrick and Sterling Johnson — discussed what it means to have coinciding mental health and substance use disorders. It was interesting to hear how the two can feed off of and amplify each other, but that mental health issues are not a prerequisite for falling into addiction. One of the things that struck me was the fact that sometime the doctors wouldn’t provide the right care that was working, saying it was unnecessary. It makes me wonder what kind of malpractice is happening not just for mental health, but also for addiction, simply because one doctor believes something that another doesn’t.

The other thing that the speakers touched upon that I hadn’t ever thought about was the ratio of people who have mental illness that are violent compared to those who are not violent. I never realized that the ratio is the same as people without mental illnesses. While the topic didn’t connect directly to addiction, realizing that tidbit of information helped me appreciate how stigmatized mental illness has become, and if people can’t get beyond that, it’s incredibly difficult to overcome.

It also made me realize the parallels between mental illness and addiction. Both are deeply stigmatized, and were or are considered to be the result of a moral failure. That attitude toward mental health has changed, but people living with addiction face a much longer fight for that changed mindset.