May is Mental Health Awareness Month - Joe's Story

When we think about "being healthy", many people think about exercising, healthy eating and regular medical check-ups and screenings.  Many people overlook mental health as being a key factor in our overall health and lifestyle.  Mental health is critical to our well-being as it covers more than feeling stressed or having a diagnosed disorder.  Mental health deals with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal tendencies and much more.  Portage County alone has had 6% of their adult population attempt suicide, according to the 2016 Portage County Community Health Assessment, with 15% of adults feeling sad or hopeless for more than two weeks.  In looking at our county's youth, 18% of children between 6th and 12th grade seriously considered suicide with 9% saying they attempted suicide, again, according to the 2016 Portage County Health assessment.  

With these feelings of depression, experiences of trauma and diagnosed disorders being prevalent in all communities, we need to pay attention to our mental health when considering our overall health.  Any of these mental health issues can result in compounding concerns as people try avoid seeking help because of social stigmas, insurance concerns or lack of resources.  The result can be a person self medicating, no diagnosis or treatment plan for a person or succumbing to the illness all together.  Please read Joe's story about how his trauma led to a number of concerns to work through to begin and move forward in the recovery process. 

“Joe” came to Townhall II requesting help for his meth and heroin addiction.  He also had pending drug charges and an OVI.  He admitted that he was scared to participate in treatment and was very reluctant to share any type of personal information- he later revealed that he had been a victim of trauma during his childhood and these issues were directly related to his use of alcohol and drugs.  Joe began outpatient group services, but because of his trust issues, he initially had problems connecting to other group members.  However, as he later explained, he quickly realized that his Primary Counselor and group facilitators where not judgmental in any way and that if he was willing to let others get to know him, they would be supportive and help him to learn how to deal with his relapse issues (Joe initially struggled with maintaining abstinence).  This newfound trust in the treatment process also empowered him to attend support group meetings and to begin addressing his trauma issues.  Joe was like a sponge, wanting to learn as much as he could about his disease and how to manage it.  He successfully met the treatment program milestones and quickly began developing a health sober support network via A.A.  He also benefited from other “wraparound” services that assisted him in securing new housing.  As Joe continued to be more confident in his ability to maintain long-term recovery, he started working with a physician, Recovery Coach, and psychiatrist in order to address other chronic issues that up to this point had hindered his ability to achieve an overall healthy lifestyle.  Joe decided to accept responsibility for his actions and pleaded guilty to his legal charges.  He will have to serve some time in jail.  However, because of his positive progress in treatment, the sentence the Judge gave him was not as severe as it could have been.  Joe stated that he is glad this part of his life is over and going to jail will not impact his commitment to long-term recovery.