When your loved one suffers mental illness and addiction

What frustrated me about Charles’ treatment was how the behavioral health community silo-ed treatment. When he was using, the advice was to treat the substance use disorder first. He was not addicted at this point.

I didn’t know Charles was suffering from thoughts of suicide and no one ever suggested or gave him a suicide screening or did a proper psychological evaluation to offer a diagnosis. I kept asking for a diagnosis and it’s still shocking that no one ever did that evaluation. I never shut up about it but apparently they found me very easy to ignore.

How does someone put their depression on hold? And how do they put suicidal ideation on hold? And why would professionals suggest we ignore one thing to fix another first? Maybe it was because they didn’t have a protocol to treat a dual diagnosis.

If he’d had diabetes and cancer at the same time would they have told him to ignore the diabetes until they could treat the cancer?

If you are currently looking for treatment for a loved one with SUD and mental illness, look into Integrated Dual Disorder Treatment (IDDT). It is an evidence-based practice that improves quality of life for people with co-occurring severe mental illness and substance use disorders by combining substance abuse services with mental health services. It helps people address both disorders at the same time—in the same service organization by the same team of treatment providers.

This is what I wanted and never got and I have no idea why it wasn’t as obvious to treatment professionals as it was to me. (I’m still angry about it.) The brain doesn’t separate disorders or physical illness from mental illness. The brain puts it all in a big bowl like cake batter and mixes it all together.

It’s our medical culture that wants to separate it all out nice and neat. We can’t expect someone in recovery to put one illness on hold so we can treat the other first because that’s what’s convenient. And for all you out there looking for treatment for someone who has both disorders, there is finally a protocol.

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my youngest son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

6 thoughts on “When your loved one suffers mental illness and addiction”

  1. I am heartsick reading of so many similiar experiences, but praise God that you are all talking about these things, silence kills the soul and too many souls are being lost all over the country.

  2. It’s truly stunning how little logic seems to be applied by so many health care practitioners. I restricted access to electronic devices at night until my daughter’s two psychologists and her psychiatrist told me—in front of her— that I HAD to let her keep them in her room 24/7 because her friends were part of her safety plan. I guess it didn’t occur to them she’d stay up checking on said friends, who were all sleeping and unresponsive, and she’d be having panic attacks all night worrying about them. I know you know what a huge role insomnia, not to mention the heightened anxiety, plays in mental health. I knew better, but how could I tell all the professionals, and my sick daughter that I wasn’t willing to support her safety plan? I didn’t know the extent of the problem until it was too late.

    1. At least half. It was maddening. I just wanted to scream, “Are you all stupid?” That would have gotten me nowhere but I couldn’t believe someone needed research to show that this was necessary.

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