Suicide, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse

Addiction to drugs and alcohol tends to be a mechanism for coping rather than sheer indulgence. People who have suffered socially, financially, traumatically, or in family abuse are more likely to abuse substances. Additionally, co-occurring mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, ADHD, and schizophrenia can also lead to substance abuse.

Suicide becomes a higher risk among those who are actively abusing substances, for a few reasons. First, since mental health disorders and substance abuse are so closely related, combining substances like alcohol which is a depressant with someone who is depressed can result in suicidal behavior. Abusing substances as a coping mechanism usually results from a lack of treatment or diagnosis for the co-occurring mental health disorder. As a result, combining both untreated substance abuse and untreated mental illness can become fatal.

The Canadian mental Health Association of Toronto cites these statistics regarding alcohol abuse and suicide:
6x more likely to die by suicide in the home are people who have problems at work due to their drinking.
10x more at risk for suicide are people who have been hospitalized for problems related to alcohol abuse.
10 or more years after experiencing problems with alcohol is when the risk of suicide is highest in alcoholics (not recovering)

Additional factors contributing to increased risks of suicide among those with substance abuse and/or mental illness can include: living in an area with more alcohol sales per capita, problematic relationships, and stress.

There Is A Solution

There is no need to die an alcoholic or drug addicted death due to a lack of treatment. Research continuously proves that receiving treatment for one or both diagnoses of substance abuse and mental illness greatly reduces the risk of suicide.

Treatment is about more than a diagnosis and pharmacological supplements. During treatment, there is a wealth of education about living with substance abuse and mental illness, including experiential learning regarding coping mechanisms and life skills necessary for living a long and healthy life. Treatment is an opportunity to learn how to live, just one day at a time, without the need for substance abuse.

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