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Dual Diagnosis of Mental Illness And Substance Abuse

Posted by Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on 1 November 2019
Dual Diagnosis of Mental Illness And Substance Abuse

Up to half the people with mental illness have a co-occurring substance abuse issue. Often this begins with self-medication, to alleviate the distressing symptoms of the illness. Then the two issues interact and compound the problem.

There is international consensus that the best treatment is an integrated approach; where the clinician or team has skills in treatment of both conditions and addresses them together. The concept of readiness for change and stages of change (1) is often key to the effectiveness of this approach.

Gradually, mental health and drug and alcohol systems and services are becoming integrated in Australia, but we lag well behind the best services in North America and the United Kingdom. Services with clinicians and teams trained in both areas of treatment are still rare. (2)

Mental illness encompasses biological, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions of the person affected. The illness also impacts the lives of the person's family. Severe mental illness often raises profound questions of faith, such as why does God allow sickness and why me? As a parish, we are called to support individuals and their families through their time of crisis when the illness first occurs and the ensuing life with and recovery from it. The spiritual dimension is critical to the recovery process. We can offer spiritual support through our prayerful presence in people's lives by acknowledging their pain and supporting them through the healing and recovery process.

  1. Prochaska, J., Norcross, J., and Diclemente, C., Changing for Good: A revolutionary six-stage program for overcoming bad habits and moving your life positively forward. Harper Collins 1994
  2. Harris, MA, Models of Treatment for Dual Diagnosis of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse in Canada, USA and England, with an emphasis on the treatment of homeless people. Winston Churchill Memorial Trust website. 2003.

If you haven't been able to defuse the crisis, then ring a mental health professional.

  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
  • Crisis support lines 24/7 Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
  • Mens Line Australia 1300 78 99 78
  • Family Drug Support 1300 368 186

This article is intended to be a resource for Lasallians with mental illness and their families. We thank and acknowledge the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference for this resource.

More info and resources can be found at https://www.catholic.org.au/donotbeafraid


Author: Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
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