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Awareness is key

Caitlin Nearhood • Aug 26, 2014 at 6:43 AM


In the wake of recent tragedy, hope can be found for those who need help.

The news of Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams’ suicide shocked the world Monday night. Williams had bouts of alcoholism and substance abuse in the past and recently checked himself back into rehab.

With Williams’ death come questions, concerns and conversation about suicide, depression and substance addiction. Unknowingly, each problem can be connected to each other.

“What most people don’t know is that it’s not uncommon to be a mental health client and be involved with substance abuse,” said Joey Supina, director of Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center.

Supina, a member of the Ohio Empowerment Coalition and the Ohio Citizens Advocates for Addiction Recovery, understands that mental illness has been touched with bad stigma for several years, but stresses the importance of talking about it to aid in awareness and need for attention.

“It occurs not only on the celebrity level, but on normal level—mental illness occurs in quite a few families,” he said.

People with a mental illness tend to self-medicate themselves, thinking that drugs or alcohol will wash their problems away. Unfortunately, according to Supina, this isn’t the case and it’s not uncommon.

“They think it alleviates the pain, but in reality, it makes it worse,” he said.

Whether we know it or not, we’re all affected by mental illness.

“You’re either affected directly by it through a loved one, or indirectly by paying taxes,” he said.

Since the aspect of community is important during the recovery process, peers who struggled with depression, mental illness, or addiction should mentor those with problems now.

“You have to be a peer to be a peer supporter,” he said. “The peer supporter can make sure their mentee goes to their appointments, takes their medication, and overall serve as accountability for that person.”

Supina recommends contacting local organizations for those seeking assistance with their condition.

“Get in touch with Sandusky Artisans, Bayshore Counseling, or other community organizations and they can help you,” he said.

Henrietta Whelan, director of Bayshore Counseling in Sandusky, could not be reached for comment.

Supina hopes that people understand that mental illness needs to be talked about, without its stigma.

“This is a problem that affects all of America, but there is a solution,” he said.

Supina will also appear on “Between the Lines” Friday at noon. Watch the program live at sanduskyregister.com. 

Click HERE for the Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center's blog

How can people help?

Supina gives five tips for helping those with mental illness and addiction problems:

1.      Give people hope. “They need to know that there is a solution to their problem,” Supina said.

2.      Get them to a doctor. “They need professionals who can help treat them,” he said.

3.      Give them a place of their own to live.

4.      Give them a purpose to live. “It can be a small job or another task to give them a purpose," he said. 

5.      Give them a community. “People with depression and addiction need peers around them for support to encourage them. Peers that have been through depression or addiction can help those who are going through it now,” he said.

Need help?

If you need more information on mental illness and depression or want seek treatment at local facilities, call the Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center at 419-621-9377 or Bayshore Counseling at 419-626-9156. 

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