Alcohol Awareness Month: Depression, Alcoholism, and Recovery

As the opioid crisis continues to rule news headlines, it can be easy to forget that alcohol still poses a serious problem to those who are addicted to it. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, founded and sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Its purpose is to spread awareness and education to the public to shatter the stigma that so frequently surrounds alcoholism while increasing understanding and acceptance of alcoholism as an illness.

Alcoholism is particularly common among individuals who suffer from a co-occurring mental illness. While studies vary regarding the comorbidity between depression and alcoholism, there is certainly evidence that individuals who suffer from major depressive disorder are 2-4 times more likely to suffer from an alcohol use disorder than those who do not. In addition, Individuals who suffer from an alcohol use disorder are twice as likely to suffer from depression in their lifetime. Regardless of whether depression or alcoholism appears first, each condition commonly perpetuates the other.

My Story

For me, depression came first. From a young age, I struggled to gather up the energy and ambition I needed to get out of bed and go to school. I recall my mother having to nearly drag me out of bed even though I had no problems in class. I was a smart, approachable young girl. I could put a bright smile on my face and make friends easily. Regardless of the facts, I felt as though I simply didn’t fit in with others. I had no desire to socialize or do things the other kids did. I was happier alone in my bedroom.

This isolation led me to a place where I began to deeply hate myself. I was slightly overweight and was made fun of for having a big forehead. Insecurity took hold of me and I let it run my life. I learned at the innocent age of 12 that a little Jack Daniels from my parent’s musty liquor cabinet would take away my feelings of insecurity and desolation.

Over the next few years, I began to go to high school intoxicated and alcohol was playing an exhilarating and important part of my life as I sought confidence through a bottle of liquid courage. It was my best friend that later became my worst enemy.

Although alcohol gave me a solution to my depression in the beginning, it eventually made everything worse and substantially changed life as I knew it. By the time I went to college, I couldn’t get out of bed without experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Around this time I was also introduced to opioids – which provided me with the functionality to go to class high until I could get home and take my next drink.

It wasn’t until alcohol and drugs had stolen my desire to live from me that I realized that I had been self-medicating all those years. When I went to a dual diagnosis treatment center I was diagnosed with depression and put on the right medication while receiving therapy to help me get to the root of my problems.

Depression and Alcoholism

The problem with self-medicating through alcohol abuse is that it usually leads to both tolerance and physical dependence towards alcohol. As alcohol is taken in excess over a period of time, the brain undergoes changes which involve judgment and decision making. The pattern of alcohol abuse soon becomes second nature, resulting in alcoholism.

Since alcohol releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine, it causes feelings of euphoria. This can make a person who suffers from depression feel better as it improves their mood and feelings of pleasure. On the other hand, in the case of a person who does not suffer from depression, when the alcohol is removed the brain will experience a lack of dopamine and serotonin. The lack of these chemicals can lead to depression. Left untreated, the vicious cycle of depression and alcoholism can be fatal.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Since the prevalence of depression and alcoholism co-occurring is extremely common and dire, it is imperative that both disorders be treated in order to increase the chances of success in sobriety. If only alcohol use disorder is treated, a person with an untreated mental illness is more likely to relapse than those who do not. Dual diagnosis treatment can be beneficial to individuals with co-occurring disorders as it focuses on treating both conditions simultaneously.

When I was in dual diagnosis treatment, I was armed with the relapse prevention tools I needed to both stay sober and treat my depression. I was surrounded by a group of other individuals who were also suffering from mental illness and alcoholism. They not only thoroughly understood what I was going through, but they were willing to listen to me, provide me with immense support, and hold me up when I was down. I learned how healing it can be to openly talk about my problems with other people who shared common experiences.

Treatment also encouraged me to incorporate healthy habits into my daily lifestyle that can also be used as coping mechanisms, such as yoga, meditation, and spending time in nature. These activities are all helpful in reducing stress and anxiety while promoting a sense of well-being.

Recovery

While the cycle of depression and alcoholism may seem a hopeless one, it is estimated that 20 million people are living in recovery from alcohol abuse. My own recovery proves this as I embarked on a journey of sobriety hand in hand with other alcoholics and addicts. I was given a life where my dreams were restored, my motivation came back with an enthusiastic outlook on life, and I found gratitude for the life I live today. Through treatment, hard work, and a compassionate support group, I believe that anyone has the ability to recover from depression and alcoholism.

Cassidy Webb is an avid writer from South Florida. She advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.

Q&A: How Digital Mental Health Tools Made a Difference for Hazard Independent Schools

From Ed Tech Magazine

Vivian Carter, the innovation coordinator at Hazard Independent Schools in Kentucky, explains how and why her rural district adopted a digital health tool for troubled students.

Digital health technology isn’t just for grown-ups. New tools can help connect children with the private and personalized resources they need to better understand their mental health and keep it in check.

For one school district, adopting an online mental and behavioral health system has been an effective tool to better help students in a rural community overcome barriers to learning, says Vivian Carter, innovation coordinator at Hazard Independent Schools in Eastern Kentucky.

In 2014, the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC), which includes Hazard Independent Schools, received a Project Prevent grant from the Education Department that included funding to deploy and use the Ripple Effects online tool. Ripple Effects is a “Social Emotional Learning technology-based software system” that teachers can use to deliver behavior interventions and students can use to access personalized guidance and emotional resources. The technology is now being used in 70 of the 140 KVEC schools as a way to fill the gaps in mental health care for students and already has seen success in dropping the number of mental health and behavioral referrals.

Read more here…

One Sheridan school increased teacher retention and decreased students ‘falling through the cracks’ by adding mental health professionals

From Chalkbeat

At one school in the tiny district of Sheridan south of Denver, two social workers roam the hallways with handheld radios, responding to crisis after crisis.

It might be a student crying in class for unknown reasons, a disruptive student, or a fight. Less urgent requests, such as a check-in for a student who just seems to be having a rough day, usually come through email.

“It’s very much boots on the ground,” said Maggie Okoniewski, one of the social workers at Fort Logan Northgate.

The school has just under 600 students in grades third through eighth. The demographics are typical of the Sheridan school district. About one in four are identified as homeless — the highest rate for any school district in the state — and about 15 percent qualify as having special needs.

In between those calls, Okoniewski and her fellow social worker Danielle Watry check in on students they’ve identified as a priority. Every week the list includes about 60 students. In the last year, the list includes students from the heavily Hispanic population who have especially struggled with deportations or fears of separations, they said.

“And if I’m in the classroom, it’s almost certain that another student will flag us down,” Watry said.

Read more…

Mental health matters every day of the year

Gaels rugby star comments on her struggle with mental health

It was the most important game of our season — the OUA semi-final.

Every season, we set our sights on making it to the U Sports national championship. And every year, we have the potential. But in order to get there, we had to win a critical game against the McMaster Marauders, a formidable force in the OUA.

Having lost to them in regular season play, the odds were against us, but we were determined to outwork our long-time rivals.

Before the match, the atmosphere in the team room was intense.

When I looked around at my teammates, I reflected on what could’ve been my last chance to make a national championship. I knew we were ready. We had just the right balance of pregame dance battles and a fierce focus that always produces our best performances.

We came out flying. Every hit, every ruck, every run was on point. Our unity was unbreakable, with every player executing their role with unmatched heart. I had the game of my life, scoring two tries to secure our ticket to nationals. When the final whistle blew, the score read 20-10 for Queen’s. Everyone was cheering and crying and bursting with excitement.

But I felt nothing.

In a moment where I would normally be overflowing with emotion — and embarrassingly drowning in a puddle of happy tears — I was numb. This is the most frustrating part about living with a mood disorder like depression.

Anhedonia is a fancy word for the inability to feel pleasure, even when doing the things you love. Rather inconveniently, these familiar symptoms of depression resurfaced at the outset of this season’s OUA playoffs. I had previously been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder while centralized with the Canadian national team, but this was the first major depressive episode I experienced since my return to Queen’s in 2016.

I’d like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at warding off the darkness — which at one point consumed me — but this was a not-so-gentle reminder that mental illness can strike even when we do everything right.

At the time, I was on top of my classes and feeling incredibly engaged in what I was learning. I got to spend every night playing the sport I love with my best friends, who I love more than anything else in the world. I was taking care of my mental wellbeing through mindfulness and self care, listening to what my body and my mind were telling me.

I was happy — until I really wasn’t.

Read more here…

10 apps to help kids control their emotions

From Mashable

Welcome to Small Humans, an ongoing series at Mashable that looks at how to take care of – and deal with – the kids in your life. Because Dr. Spock is nice and all, but it’s 2018 and we have the entire internet to contend with. 


Millions of people around the world can attest to the positive effects of mindfulness on their mental health and well-being. Take reduced stress levels, improved concentration and organization, and a greater ability to control emotions and experience compassion and empathy, just for starters.

These are all things we want for our kids, right? And it’s easier than ever, thanks to the range of digital tools right at our fingertips. One of these apps could be the perfect way to introduce your child to a world of calm, mindfulness and emotional maturity.

1. Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame

Breathe, Think, Do With Sesame is a great introduction to mindfulness for younger grade-schoolers. With the help of a cute monster, kids learn calming breathing techniques to help them cope with potentially frustrating or distressing situations: putting on shoes, saying goodbye to parents, fixing a block tower, waiting in line and going to sleep in the dark. Each scenario can be revisited, depending on your child’s particular struggles, and there’s also a parents’ section packed with tips and strategies. The app also has a Spanish-language setting.

Available on iOS and Android.  

2. Calm Kids

Calm, which was named Apple App of the Year 2017 and Google Play Editor’s Choice 2018, ranks as one of the top mindfulness and wellness apps for adults but it also has a great section for children, Calm Kids. It provides mindfulness exercises, relaxation activities and “Sleep Stories” for kids of all ages, which are updated every week. The app or desktop version has a 7-day free trial; after that it’s $59.99 a year.

Available on iOS and Android.

3. DreamyKid

DreamyKid is aimed at kids age 8 and over, with its programs most suitable for kids who struggle with self-confidence, anxiety or settling down at bedtime. Strategies include a “rainbow body-scan,” “schoolwork mastery meditation” and confidence affirmations, and there are also a wide range of relaxing, ambient background sounds to help send your little one to sleep. The app is free, but the guided meditations are $3.99 each.

Available on iOS.

Read more here…

10 apps to help kids control their emotions

From Mashable

Millions of people around the world can attest to the positive effects of mindfulness on their mental health and well-being. Take reduced stress levels, improved concentration and organization, and a greater ability to control emotions and experience compassion and empathy, just for starters.

These are all things we want for our kids, right? And it’s easier than ever, thanks to the range of digital tools right at our fingertips. One of these apps could be the perfect way to introduce your child to a world of calm, mindfulness and emotional maturity.

1. Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame

Breathe, Think, Do With Sesame is a great introduction to mindfulness for younger grade-schoolers. With the help of a cute monster, kids learn calming breathing techniques to help them cope with potentially frustrating or distressing situations: putting on shoes, saying goodbye to parents, fixing a block tower, waiting in line and going to sleep in the dark. Each scenario can be revisited, depending on your child’s particular struggles, and there’s also a parents’ section packed with tips and strategies. The app also has a Spanish-language setting.

See more here…

Teen anxiety and depression more likely in kids who don’t trust or communicate with parents

From ABC News

When children are small, their faces light up at the sight of mom and dad. But fast forward a few years, and the same parents eventually get eye-rolls.

Adolescence is a time to navigate self-identity and peer pressure from every angle, but what causes some teens to thrive while others struggle with anxiety and depression?

While previous reports have credited environmental risk factors, such as poverty and racism, for anxiety and depression in teens, a new study adds another one: a fracture in the parent-child bond.

As teen participants of the study moved through adolescence, their attachment to their parents changed significantly, with the largest drop occurring in middle school. Attachment levels stabilized by the end of high school, but the more a teen felt alienated during their adolescence, the less likely they were to trust and communicate with their parents.

Dr. Suniya Luthar, co-author of the study, told ABC News that parents can prevent these feelings of distrust from developing.

Read more here…

Helping in memory of her son, Patrick, who died by suicide

From The Gazette

This much Martine Brault knows: she will never see her first-born son again.

Patrick Chouinard died in a fiery crash on Sept. 6, 2017, at about 5:50 a.m. He was 20. Brault believes that when he drove his car at high speed into a concrete viaduct wall on Quebec City’s Autoroute Duplessis, he did so intentionally. That his death was a suicide. The coroner needed dental records to confirm his identity.

Only after Patrick’s death did his mother learn that he most probably suffered from depression. He’d been somewhat irritable and angry of late. Mostly, though, he was a happy-go-lucky guy who loved having fun with his friends and whose passion was cars.

“People with depression are really good at putting on a face and saying everything is OK,” said Brault, a Quebec City veterinarian. “But when I spoke to his friends after his death, I learned that he had confided in them that everything wasn’t so OK.”

She would learn that Patrick often spent the night driving around in his car, grey with gold mag wheels. “He must have been the only one in Quebec with those wheels,” she said. That sometimes he had dark thoughts: He told one friend that his car would be his coffin. Two nights before his death, he spent the night sitting on train tracks on a railway overpass 400 feet in the air.

Friends said there were phrases he’d use:

Things aren’t clear in my head.

I am confused.

I am down.

I am anxious.

Read more here…

18 Comics That Help Illustrate What Depression Feels Like

From BuzzFeed

1. When you have depression, you can feel like it can totally overwhelm you at any moment:

sylviereuter.de

Illustration by Sylvie Reuter.

2. And you might feel like you have to hide it when you’re out in “the real world.”

Illustration by Kristian Nygård.

3. And you just want to hide yourself away.

rubyetc.tumblr.com / Via rubyetc.tumblr.com

Comic strip by Ruby etc.

See more here…