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Bell Let’s Talk Day – Mental Illness Coupled with Addiction Are More Common Than You Think!

Are Canadians doing a better job at helping people with mental illness and addiction than they did 10 years ago? The truth is that the number of people developing problems with substance abuse or compulsive behaviours is increasing. You can go on any news outlet right now and see that there’s an epidemic taking place in our country. There’s an opioid crisis with Fentanyl, W-18 and Carfentanil hitting Canadian cities at an alarming rate. Hundreds of Canadians are overdosing on these drugs, especially in BC.

Is the increase in these drugs the real problem? Or is this just part of larger problem? The Canadian government is beginning to realize that these overdoses are part of a much bigger problem- addiction.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, most of the focus is usually placed on mental illness but there isn’t a lot of conversation about addiction. Perhaps we all need to talk about it more, given the fact that people with a mental illness are twice as likely to have substance abuse problems.[1]

Addiction continues to be a subject that we avoid because it’s misunderstood and carries a ton of stigma. Many individuals believe addiction is a choice and it only happens to a certain group of people. At the Edgewood Health Network we know that this not the case.

Addiction isn’t a hobby that someone decides to pick up one day. Many people who have developed an addiction may have started using pain medication because they were prescribed by a doctor to help them with a medical condition or they were struggling in silent with mental illness. In other cases, it was a way of avoiding unpleasant feelings as a result of past memories or trauma. Addiction was a way to numb the physical or emotional pain that they lived through. Unfortunately, not everyone survives this chronic disease.

What’s the upside of this story? The people who are in recovery decided that enough was enough! Even though their brain told them to keep using, their hearts understood that recovery was the only way that would prevent them from total self-destruction. Recovery is our answer to helping people who are living with addiction and mental illness. Recovery is the reason why families who were falling apart became whole again. It gives people the tools to live again and give back to others who are in need.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, let’s talk about addiction and recovery because it doesn’t matter what age you are, whether you are 30 or 50. People do recover.

If you are struggling with addiction and mental illness, we hope these quotes from our alumni in recovery will inspire you to talk to someone today and ask for help.

Recovery is the greatest gift you can give to yourself.


“I have been in recovery for most of my 30’s and it’s been miraculous! Had you told me at 33 (when I got sober) who I would be and what my life would look like at 39, I would have told you it wasn’t possible. Maybe even that you were crazy. Gratitude is too simple a word to describe the awe and joy I have in my life now that I am living recovery. And I’m so excited I get the chance to live the rest of my life this way.”


“Being in recovery in my 30’s is like living a new life daily. Waking up every morning in freedom is much better than trying to get out of the hell I was living in. Recovery at first is challenging but as time goes on it gets better and better!”


“Recovery began for me when I was finally able, not only to accept help, but to ask for it. Since then everything has changed. Things haven’t always gone my way but there has always been a way out and a lesson to learn. Honestly, coming into treatment was such a blur for me. But if there was one thing I took away from it,that I still use to support my recovery, it was this: A community of people exists who have experienced, and overcome, every single problem I have in my life. What is required is my effort to connect to them as best I can. When I heard the words that ‘addiction is suicide on an installment plan’ I realized that I had to face the fact that, despite all I had ever told myself, I was becoming just like my father. Treatment is a process that allowed me to reclaim my life as my own, not anyone else’s.”


“Sobriety is a choice for a new life. Recovery to me is being FREE. It sounds weird but it’s not.  I’m not thinking or obsessing of when my next drink is going to be and when I’m going to get high on drugs. Now it’s not even on my mind when things go wrong.  If that’s not freedom what is?”

[1] Mental Illness and Addictions: Facts and Statistics-CAMH. Retrieved on January 24, 2017

How the New Recovery Advocacy Movement is Helping Change the Way We Talk About Addiction

Written by Annie McCullough

The Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a primary, chronic and progressive disease, with a tendency to relapse, leading to disability or premature death without treatment and engagement in recovery activities.

Today neuroscientists know the parts of the brain involved in addiction and that the behaviors of addicts are, in fact, symptoms of a brain disorder. Alcohol and other drugs can literally hijack the survival mechanisms of the human brain. The debate among the uninformed is often about whether addiction is a disease or a choice. The short answer is that addiction is a disease “of” choice. It is a disorder of the parts of the brain that we need to make healthy choices that honor the sanctity of life.

An individual afflicted with SUD (substance use disorder, a.k.a. addiction) often experiences dramatic personality changes, gradually becoming almost unrecognizable to loved ones. However, the individual is often unaware of the toxic effects until it progresses dramatically. In end-stage addiction symptoms include pathological denial, risky behaviour, and impaired decision making. They may develop substance-induced mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression). Many become emotionally unstable and they suffer deeply. The men and women who tragically succumb to this brain disorder give something very important to all of us: they teach us that this is not a moral issue, and that the power of choice was not in their control.

We need to help our loved ones find recovery by demonstrating that millions of Canadians from all walks of life are in active recovery – right now, at this very moment. We in the New Recovery Advocacy Movement (NRAM) are working to eliminate barriers to recovery for every Canadian, every family and to help today’s children and future generations, who are often the biggest winners in the process of recovery.

The New Recovery Advocacy Movement

The NRAM is a social movement led by people in addiction recovery and their allies, aimed at altering public and professional attitudes toward addiction recovery, promoting recovery-focused policies and programs, and supporting efforts to break the intergenerational cycles of addiction and related problems.

The NRAM rose in the late 1990s when grassroots recovery community organizations (RCOs) were formed in recognition of the need for a national recovery advocacy movement.   The subsequent cultural and political mobilization of people in recovery and people personally affected by addiction was enhanced by  the growth and diversification of recovery mutual aid groups, a new generation of recovery advocacy literature , a landmark documentary film (The Anonymous People), and a national recovery rally in Washington D.C. (Unite to Face Addiction).

The core and evolving messages of the NRAM include the following:

  1. 1. Addiction recovery is a living reality for individuals, families, and communities.
  2. 2. There are many pathways to recovery, and ALL are cause for celebration.
  3. 3. Recovery flourishes in supportive communities.
  4. 4. Recovery is a voluntary process.
  5. 5. Recovering and recovered people are part of the solution: recovery gives back what addiction has taken from individuals, families, and communities.
  6. 6. Recovery is contagious and can be spread in local communities by increasing the density of recovery carriers and expanding recovery landscapes (physical, psychological, social, and cultural spaces) supportive of addiction recovery.


Changing Public Perception Through Language

One of the main ways we have begun changing public perception is through language.  The lack of understanding of what “recovery” is has required us to be very clear in defining it.

We needed to find a way to describe and talk about recovery so that people who are NOT part of the recovery community understood what we meant when we used the word “recovery.” One of the important findings from the research was that the general public believes that the word recovery means that someone is “trying” to stop using alcohol or other drugs.

We have now found a way talk about recovery in a clear and credible way that will help make it possible for more people to get the help they need to recover.

  1. 1. We make our stories personal, so that we have credibility
  2. 2. We keep it simple and in the present tense, so that it’s real and understandable
  3. 3. We help people understand that recovery means that you or the person that you care about is no longer using alcohol or other drugs. We do this by moving away from saying “in recovery” to saying “in long-term recovery” and by using concrete examples from our lives to talk about stability and mentioning the length of time that the person is in recovery.
  1. 4. We talk about recovery…not addiction
  2. 5. We help people understand that there’s more to recovery than not using alcohol or other drugs, but that part of recovery is creating a better life.

The NRAM has the potential to dramatically alter public and professional perceptions of addiction recovery and forge fundamental changes in the design of addiction treatment and the nature and magnitude of recovery support services available to Canadian citizens.

We are unifying around key priorities – to gain needed resources -to end the discrimination and stigmatization against people who suffer from substance use disorder in our communities and workplaces.  We will continue to advocate for a focus on prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery in order to make long-term recovery possible for even more individuals and families.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, let’s remember to talk about this devastating disease as it continues to affect millions of Canadians every day. On January 27th, you can end the silence by talking, texting, or tweeting about addiction and mental health. Help us raise awareness that RECOVERY is possible.

Let’s Talk About Addiction AND Mental Illness Together

The word addiction still paints a stereotype of what a person with substance abuse problems looks like. Several people still believe it’s a moral failing. Many biases stem from the way we were brought up, cultural taboos, negative experiences or a lack of understanding. Stigma is one of the biggest challenges people face when they talk about addiction and mental health.

During the Bell Let’s Talk day on January 27th, 2016, as part of the Edgewood Health Network, we will work with Healthy Minds Canada to shed a light on addiction and mental illnesses that many of our clients often have in conjunction with addiction. Canadians are certainly making a progress in terms of talking about mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder. What many don’t know is that people with mental illness are twice as likely to have substance abuse problems. Some research reveals that 20% of Canadians with mental illness have substance abuse problems. The rate jumps to almost 50% for people with schizophrenia and substance use disorders.

Fear, stigma and lack of support are still factors that are affecting Canadians who need help with addiction and mental illness.  How can you help?

As we move into 2016, let’s make better choices with our words, our workplace policies, and in our schools about how we view, treat and support people who have an addiction, are in recovery or have mental illnesses. People with addiction and mental illnesses don’t choose to have these diseases and illnesses, but you can choose to be kind and understanding.

[Infographic about Addiction and Mental Illness in Canada]

Addiction & Mental Illness in Canada (2)


Mental Illness – Let’s Reduce the Stigma! Let’s Talk.

1 in 5 people are dealing with a mental illness. As you may know, today is “Bell Let’s Talk” day, and this is an initiative carried out by Bell Canada, in order to work towards reducing the stigma of mental illness. These anti-stigma campaigns are trying to target the deeply ingrained biases that many of us have when it comes to talking about addiction, and mental illness. The root of stigma comes from our upbringing, our family of origin, a lack of understanding, and perhaps a lack of personal experience. The stigma around mental illness is a significant issue in our society today, as many people still feel shame and embarrassment for visiting a therapist, taking medication, or requiring accommodations.

The stigma concerning mental illness has a deep effect on the individuals who are struggling with these issues. The effects of stigma can be compared to carrying an extra weight, as these individuals may react to the stigma by choosing not to speak about their illness. Coping with the stigma associated with mental health adds an extra burden to these individuals, and maintaining stigma in our society can lead to individuals not choosing to get help for fear that they will be ostracized , or viewed differently.

The workplace is one environment in which it is especially difficult for individuals to speak about mental illness. As a treatment centre that focuses on treating individuals and families with addiction and mental health issues, we encourage all employers to be progressive and informed about their workforce. To assist with fostering an environment that is free of stigma here are some guidelines:

–  Be supportive, non-judgmental, and accommodating of all employees, regardless of their health issues, or the position that they hold within the company

–  Provide diversity education, and educate all staff about the basics of mental illness, and how to practice work-life balance

–  Foster an environment that is safe, supportive and encourages employees to feel comfortable coming forward to ask for any accommodations they may require

–  Provide a range of effective Employee Assistance Programs as an added support for employees

With each person on the planet that starts breaking down the barriers related to mental illness, the closer we will find ourselves to a world where people do not feel shame for seeking the help that they need.


Anti-Stigma Tips