The missing link
Aoife has been doing work experience with ReachOut.com. On Wednesday of this week, she accompanied Fenella to an event held by Cork City Comhairle na nÓg about drugs, mental health and young people called ‘The missing link’ and tells us about it.
The event was mostly about focusing on young people with mental health problems and being able to understand what they’re thinking and feeling.
What is mental health?
When we think of mental health we often think of illnesses like depression or schizophrenia. However, there’s more to mental health than this. Mental health also refers to your general state of mind. You can have positive mental health or negative mental health, even if you are generally coping well.
As the event went on, listening to the different opinions expressed, I learned more about the link between drugs and mental health.
When you think of mental health, you may think of control, happiness, contentment or order. But, good mental health is usually a sign of a positive way of life. Mental ill-health is the opposite of this. It causes problems and creates barriers to being happy.
Your frame of mind may vary between the two as mental health can change. It can be affected by external influences and some these are alcohol and recreational drugs.
The aim of this event was to find the ‘missing link’ between drugs and mental health. By the end of the event everybody had learned more about drugs and mental health and how they’re linked.
Substance misuse is an increasingly recognised problem among young people with mental health problems. Many individuals may experience both mental health problems and problems with substance misuse.
There can be some difficulty in identifying which came first; the mental health problem or the substance misuse problem. Experts suggest that sometimes each condition may play a role in the development of the other.
Substances as a coping mechanism
At the event we heard that sometimes people who have feelings of anxiety, especially social anxiety use substances as a coping mechanism. Alcohol and recreational drugs appear to have a bit of an anti-anxiety effect and users can feel they have more confidence when they are under the influences of these drugs.
This isn’t a good way of coping with feelings of anxiety. It can lead to dependency and substance abuse problems, which can cause lots of other problems.
One of the most important things I learned was how to support someone going through a tough time. When having a conversation with somebody experiencing mental health problems, being non-judgmental and offering a listening ear is often the best thing to do.