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Treating Co-occurring Disorders Together for Mental Health Month

James Malervy

Authored by James Malervy

The significance of Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, or more commonly, Mental Health Month (MHM).

Founded by Mental Health America (MHA) in 1949, and certified as a national event by presidential proclamation in 2013, the primary purpose of MHM is to educate the public and raise awareness of the nature and extent of mental illness while also disarming the stigmas that surround them.

Each year, MHM focuses on a particular theme. The theme for the past two years, for example, was designated as #Tools2Thrive, homing in on the “unprecedented anxiety about a world pandemic.” For 2022, the theme is Together for Mental Health, recognizing the record number of people struggling with mental health over two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—and the need for a collective solution to the ongoing mental health crisis.

Every May, MHA creates a toolkit of materials, which it circulates widely to its affiliates, community groups, public health centers and media organizations, to promote mental health awareness throughout the month. The toolkit includes materials on adapting to trauma and stress, dealing with anger and frustration, identifying unproductive thought patterns while processing changes, and taking time for self-care and self-acceptance. You can access the toolkit here.

Dual Diagnosis: the co-occurrence of mental health disorders and substance use disorders

To promote the educational and therapeutic mission of Mental Health Month, we at Recovery Centers of America recognize the reality of dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders, and are absolutely committed to alleviating it. A person dealing with dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder means that they face both addiction and a mental health problem at the same time. For instance, someone might struggle simultaneously with both depression and alcoholism, or anxiety and abuse of prescription pills. 

Indeed, the high number of people contending with both mental health problems and addiction is alarming. While over 9.2 million adults in the United States suffer from co-occurring disorders, only 9.1% receive effective treatment. In our experience treating people with both substance used disorders and mental health disorders, we have also routinely found that a high number of RCA patients struggle with some combination of the two.

While it’s unclear which comes first—the addiction or the mental health problem—it is clear that when they co-occur, the two are intimately bound up with each other. Recent research has found that nearly half of those who experience mental illness also experience substance abuse and vice versa. Further, people suffering from substance use disorder are twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, and people with a severe mental illness are four times more likely to suffer also from alcohol use disorder. Tragically, many of these individuals don’t get the treatment they need, exacerbating both conditions, and sometimes leading to homelessness, incarceration and suicide. 

How Recovery Centers of America creates balance

At Recovery Centers of America, we are sensitive to the need for integrative treatment, addressing substance use disorders alongside mental health disorders. That’s why created Balance, a specialized inpatient and outpatient program that combines cutting-edge addiction treatment with proven mental health approaches. As we’ve stressed, most people who struggle with substance use also suffer from mental health conditions. These include but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood disorders (depression, bipolar)
  • Personality disorders (e.g. borderline personality disorder)
  • ADHD
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Self-harm
  • Impulsivity
  • Trauma 
  • History of relationship conflicts

To reach recovery from addiction and to improve mental health at the same time, the program employs dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) to balance thoughts, emotions and actions.

Apart from dual diagnosis, we also treat a variety of mental health problems alone. Through Recovery Centers of America’s outpatient mental health program, our team handles anxiety, depression, bipolar, PTSD, other forms of trauma, personality disorders, among others.

As we take up the mission of Mental Health Month, then, we do so with the knowledge of how widespread co-occurring disorders are and how crucially important it is to lasting recovery that they be treated together. Doing so will not only offer balance and relief to those in their grip, but also discourage the stigma that regrettably still prevents people from receiving the essential treatment they need and deserve.   

If you or a loved one are struggling with drugs or alcohol, call now 855-486-1902. We offer 24/7 admissions, transportation and intervention services.  

Authored by

James Malervy

James Malervy

Jim Malervy is the Senior Director of Digital Marketing for Recovery Centers of America (RCA) and is passionate about helping RCA in achieving its mission of saving over 1 Million Lives.


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