Experts: substance abuse linked to mental illness - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Experts: substance abuse linked to mental illness

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Many people are living with a mental illness like depression or anxiety. Experts say those who are may be more susceptible to drug addiction. Many people are living with a mental illness like depression or anxiety. Experts say those who are may be more susceptible to drug addiction.
CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) -

Many people are living with a mental illness like depression or anxiety. Experts say those who are may be more susceptible to drug addiction.

"Just stay high, keep busy, go go go," Tammy Harwell said.

She said after her son's death, she hid her pain with drugs. She said, at the time, numbing the pain seemed to be the answer.

"I really lost all my emotions when I used meth because nothing really mattered," Harwell said.

Harwell is not alone.

"Drinking always seemed to help with the depression," Tim Mitchell said.

Experts call turning to drugs to treat depression or other mental illnesses is called "self-medicating."

"The self-medicating does not treat the underlying cause or the root condition of what's going on," Dr. Sharon Braun said.

Experts say 60 to 75 percent of people with mental illnesses also struggle with addition.

"We know that if we treat just the substance abuse and not the mental health, the whole person suffers," Michael Hester said.

At Community Counseling Center, they treat both mental illness and additions together.

"We can heal it, maybe not cure it, but we can have a great quality of life," Hester said.

Mitchell and Harwell are proof of that.

"I still have mental illness," Harwell said. "I have anguish and I still have a lot of things I still have to work through, but I've noticed, just in the time I've been here, accepted the help, how much it's helped me."

"Now I'm clear-headed," Mitchell said. "I've always been on some kind of anti-depressant but I guess it just didn't work because of the alcohol,."

Their message for people who are going through the same struggle is to remember there are other ways to heal, besides turning to drugs.

"The time you think nobody is there for you, make that phone call," Harwell said. "There are all kinds of numbers you can call, and talk to somebody, don't just think you're not worth it because everybody's life is worth saving."

Hester said people who have both mental illness and a drug addiction are also 20 times more likely to be hospitalized.

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