Gateway Foundation Partners with myStrength

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What is myStrength?

myStrength is a digital behavioral tool that allows users to track and monitor their daily progress and mood. It is a great resource for users that provides them with tips and information on a variety of topics including addiction, anxiety, and depression. Each user is able to customize myStrength to fit them and their needs.

Why use myStrength?

According to research from the Journal of Medical Internet Research’s Research Protocols, individuals who used myStrength’s digital mental health tools had 18 times greater reduction in depressive symptoms within two weeks of use as compared to the control group.

“myStrength is a great tool for clients who are struggling with a wide variety of issues in their recovery. It gives them access to evidenced-based treatment materials outside of their group therapy sessions and allows them to build additional skills at their own pace,” says Brandon Underwood, clinical supervisor at Gateway Pekin. “It is also a great resource for clinicians to help further a client’s progress and growth outside the traditional therapeutic setting.”

Gateway led multiple training sessions for staff to ensure they would know how to utilize the tool and be able to incorporate it in counseling and therapy sessions.

Patients were also given a chance to test myStrength and afterwards were asked to rate the tool’s usefulness. The results were overwhelming positive.

“I think it (myStrength) is an amazing resource. If it helps keep just one person sober or gives them help, it is worth it. However, it will help many more than one person,” says one Gateway client after receiving the training.

How much is myStrength?

The tool will be free to current patients, their loved ones, and alumni, due to a generous donation from the family of a former patient.

Is it safe?

Privacy is often a concern with Internet apps, but myStrength is safe to use. There is no data-tracking and all user information is entirely confidential.

Trending: How the Stigma of Mental Health is Changing with Pop Culture

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Now more than ever, TV series and movies have been showing characters coping with mental illness while a growing list of celebrities have been speaking out about their own struggles with mental health disorders, helping to continue the national conversation about mental health.

Though mental health has long been considered a taboo topic, men, in particular, have had difficulties speaking about their emotions due to long-standing societal norms. Men are much less likely to seek treatment for mental health concerns compared to women. Recently, however, this attitude has shifted as more male celebrities and athletes have started to speak out about their battles with mental illness.

Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love wrote an article this past March about his experiences with anxiety, including a panic attack mid-game last year, and urged people to understand the reality and prevalence of mental illness.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a former athlete and now a popular actor, revealed his past battles with depression during his teen and early adult years. He encouraged men, in particular, to speak to someone and ask for help rather than bottling up their emotions.

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has also been open about his struggle with depression and how it almost destroyed his career. Phelps credits therapy for helping him through his depression and, like Love, encourages anyone struggling to visit a therapist.

A common theme throughout these stories is asking for help. Seeing well-known and admired figures reach out for help influences others to seek help for themselves. When major figures speak about their personal experiences with controversial issues like mental illness, the conversation surrounding those issues usually becomes more normalized. Asking for help and seeking treatment for mental illness are both instrumental in getting better.

At Gateway, a team of therapists and counselors work with patients to help them understand and treat the underlying causes of their substance use, not just their addiction. If you or a loved one is considering Gateway as a treatment option, click here to learn more.

The Importance of a Recovery Community

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For many people, leaving treatment presents a whole new set of obstacles to overcome. One way to face these obstacles is to get involved with a recovery community. A recovery community gives people the opportunity to connect with others who have shared experiences and helps them build connections with one another.

Marty Cook, director of alumni events for Gateway Foundation, started a recovery community in the northern suburbs and continues growing that community in his role at Gateway.

“I’ve had the great fortune of seeing people who didn’t know each other come to events, get to know each other, and they’re best friends,” Cook says. “They go to 12 Step meetings together, they work out, they study together, and they support each other. But that’s not possible if there’s not a concerted effort by recovery groups or hospitals to add that extra layer of support for them.”

For younger generations, finding a support system may be even more challenging. Cook offers some insight into why a recovery community is critical for this age group.

“People get sicker sooner now,” Cook says. “Even 10, 20 years ago, people would maybe get into treatment in their 30s, 40s, or 50s, but they’re coming in in their 20s now and when you’re in your 20s, most of your friends are out on weekends, there’s not a spouse, kids, so what do you got? The social network you used to have is kind of cut off because it’s built around parties and bars and alcohol and drugs, etc.”

Following treatment, many young people feel there is nothing to do without alcohol or drugs, especially on the weekends. This can cause some people to isolate themselves and lose human connections and interactions, which can be detrimental to mental health; others may fall back into the same crowd of friends as before and start drinking or using drugs once again.

Although Gateway’s recovery events are usually open to all ages, the focus on young adults for some of these events, like the recent Chicago social on May 5, aim to connect young adults beyond specific treatment sites and beyond Gateway. Gateway’s recovery community has monthly socials in addition to a variety of other events that occur throughout the week as well as on weekends. The Lake Villa social takes place the first Saturday of every month and the Chicago social takes place every third Saturday of the month. To keep up with all recovery events, like us on Facebook and check out our event calendar.

Gateway’s recovery community is open to anyone in recovery.

“We’re not just saying ‘alumni,’ we’re saying if anybody is in recovery, come to our events. Because their experience could help us, just as our alumni can benefit from them,” Cook says. “Everybody wins.”

If you or someone you know would like to get involved with Gateway’s recovery community, please email Marty Cook at MrCook@GatewayFoundation.org.

 

 

Connecting to Social Media, Disconnecting from Mental Health?

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Loneliness has been perceived as a problem that mostly affects older populations. However, a new Cigna study found that Americans, as a whole, are feeling lonely, with adolescents and young adults reporting the highest rates of loneliness.

So what’s behind this wave of isolation? While some people blame the younger generations’ fixation on social media, the current evidence is inconclusive, in part because social media has only recently become prominent, making it difficult to study its long-term effects.

What is certain is a lack of face-to-face interactions is connected to people’s feelings of loneliness.

Teens today spend more time with media than anything else in their lives. Even when they are spending time with other people, many are still using their phones. And studies have shown the more time someone spends on social media platforms and the more social sites they visit, the more likely they identify themselves as socially isolated.

Passively spending time on these platforms and not engaging with others online can also result in feelings of isolation.

A’nna Jurich serves as executive director of Gateway Carbondale, which offers a program for self-esteem-related issues among adolescent girls. Jurich runs through some of the online trends associated with loneliness and mental health:

Cyberbullying

The rise of social media has raised with it concerns about online bullying. According to research, cyberbullying is often related to low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, frustration, and other emotional problems. Bullying can be dangerous, especially for adolescents who are undergoing a lot of change, and ongoing.

“There are a couple of issues with the social media trend for adolescents: one is that they do not have the ability to disengage from all of the input from others, be it peers or media,” Jurich elaborates. “For example, if they are being bullied at school, they go home and log in and, often, the torment continues. They don’t have that period of afternoon and overnight to process and disengage from the negative messages.”

The Comparison Trap

Social media is a highlight reel and no one sees the daily behind-the-scenes; however, it can be difficult to keep that in mind while scrolling through endless photographs and videos everyday.

“Much of what is on social media is not always reality, so kids are often feeling that they need to live up to other’s perfect life experiences or appearances,” Jurich says. “They don’t see the everyday stuff, just the fabulous, and it puts a lot of pressure on them.”

FOMO

Also weighing on today’s younger generations is the fear of missing out on things, also known as “FOMO.” Many people’s moods shift after seeing their friends via social media having a good time while they aren’t. This trend is particularly common in adolescents and young adults, and it can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.

Online Community

Although social media facilitate certain issues, good can also come from these platforms.

“I think that social media could be a great way to reach kids who are isolated with symptoms of mental health by educating and starting positive conversations,” Jurich says. “Many of them would be more willing to say something online than they are in person. So hearing others’ stories and even sharing their own in that venue could be less intimidating and help them to reach out when they need it.”

Drug & Alcohol Use in Adolescents

Nearly 70 percent of high school seniors have tried alcohol, 50 percent have taken an illegal drug, and more than 20 percent have used a prescription drug for a non-medical reason, studies show. Research has found the majority of people are most likely to misuse drugs and alcohol during this transformative time.

Why is this the trend?

  • Underdevelopment of the prefrontal cortex
    • The parts of the brain that process reward and pain first mature during childhood. However, the prefrontal cortex – responsible for controlling impulses, emotions, and decision-making – does not mature until people reach their mid-20s. Therefore, adolescents are motivated by the desire to feel pleasure and avoid pain, both of which are associated with drug and alcohol use.
  • Genetic factors
    • Certain genetic traits, for instance a low harm-avoidance personality trait, make individuals more susceptible to using drugs and alcohol.
    • Mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety also increase the likelihood an adolescent will turn to substances.
  • Social environment
    • Teens are more likely to try drugs and alcohol if their friends are also using.
  • Accessibility of drugs
    • Adolescents are at an increased risk of trying substances if they have easy access to them.
  • Family environment

Compared to adults, adolescents are much more likely to hide their substance use from loved ones. Adolescents are also less likely to show signs of a problem because they have a shorter history of use. However, there are still red flags.

What are the signs?

  • Loss of interest in school and hobbies
  • Sudden need for more money and unwillingness to explain spending habits
  • Withdrawal from family and friends, and an increased desire to be alone
  • Change in friends
  • Change in behavior or personality
  • Unresponsiveness to communication
  • Frequent rule-breaking, especially of curfew

While most adolescents who try drugs and alcohol do not have substance use disorders, the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder is greater for people who begin using in their early teens. According to a study, 15.2 percent of people who start drinking by age 14 develop substance use disorders, compared to 2.1 percent of those who wait until they are 21 or older.

What are the effects?

  • Difficulties with schoolwork
  • Relationship problems
  • Loss of interest in normal healthy activities
  • Impaired memory and thinking ability
  • Increased risk of contracting an infectious disease
  • Mental health problems—including substance use disorders
  • Increased possibility of partaking in unsafe sexual activities
  • Overdose
  • Death

The key in the battle against adolescent addiction is time: We need to involve adolescents in professional treatment programs as soon as possible. Adolescents are less likely to seek out help on their own, so it is crucial loved ones help them into treatment.

Bad Habits: Processing Addictions Beyond Alcohol and Drugs

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When people think of addiction, they think of substances like alcohol and drugs. They rarely think of addictive behaviors, but addiction goes well past substance use disorders.

In 2011, the American Society of Addiction Medicine included behavioral addiction in the broader definition of addiction. Behavioral, or process, addiction is the repeated compulsion to engage in a behavior, even when the behavior becomes harmful, because the individual cannot resist engaging in the behavior without intervention. Some of the most common behavioral addictions are eating, shopping, gambling, sex, and use of social media.

While process addictions have always been prevalent in the addiction community, they gained traction fairly recently in the larger medical community due to two big findings. First, people with substance use disorders tend to have more than one addiction. Second, the brain reacts to behaviors the same way it does to substances – this is why certain behaviors, like gambling, can be addictive.

Similar to substance addictions, there is no single cause of behavioral addictions. Addiction is complex, and so are the reasons why certain people develop them while others do not. However, research has indicated genetics play a major role in a person’s susceptibility to developing the disease. In addition, people who develop addictions often report high levels of impulsivity and sensation-seeking personality traits paired with low levels of harm avoidance traits.

Further, diminished control is common in individuals with substance use disorders and process addictions. Due to tolerance, people struggling with addiction experience less pleasure each time they engage in the behavior or consume the substance, so they become motivated by negative reinforcement (relief from withdrawals) as opposed to positive reinforcement.

Co-occurrence with substance use disorders is relatively common among individuals with behavioral addictions. People with a gambling addiction are 3.8 times more likely to struggle with an alcohol use disorder. (Correlation does not mean causation, however, and the relationship between the two is unclear.)

Oftentimes, process addictions are not regarded as dangerous or detrimental compared to substance use disorders. But job or financial loss and relationship issues with family and loved ones still accompany these disorders.

Process addictions can also be more difficult to diagnose, as the signs are usually not as clear as, say, a heroin addiction. Physical health does not immediately start deteriorating and individuals oftentimes hide and disguise their behaviors from people close to them.

One of the biggest challenges in identifying these disorders is the social acceptance and, in some cases, necessity – to a degree – of behaviors such as eating, shopping, and spending money. Others may not consider related addictions issues until it takes a tremendous toll on someone’s life, until it’s too late. Before addictions spiral, though, pay attention to the red flags.

Warning signs of a behavioral addiction:

Making lifestyle changes to accommodate the behavior
– Extreme mood fluctuations related to the activity
– Justifications or rationalizations for continuing to partake in the behavior
– Extreme excitement when discussing the behavior
– Debt and frequent money borrowing

Regardless of the type of addiction, societal stigma often casts addiction as a moral failing, a lack of willpower or motivation. Research shows sustained recovery is more successful when the addiction is treated professionally, so we must continue addressing the roadblocks preventing people with behavioral addictions from seeking and receiving professional treatment.

The Relationship of Substance Use Disorder and Mental Illness

suicide and substance abuse, gateway treatment centersAt Gateway, we recognize that mental illness and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) often coincide. In fact, the presence of a co-occurring diagnosis is more the “rule” than the exception. The terms “dual diagnosis” or “co-occurring” refer to an individual that is affected by two or more disorders or illnesses.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that 37% of individuals with alcohol use disorder and 53% of those with a drug use disorder also have at least one serious mental illness.

It is difficult to diagnose which came first – the SUD or the mental health disorder. Drug use can cause one to experience symptoms of mental illness. However, mental illness can also lead to drug use as a form of self-medication to manage symptoms. There are many overlapping factors that can make it difficult to detect the initial issue.

“There is no question that no matter which came first; both issues need to be addressed in treatment,” said Katie Stout, Executive Director at Gateway. According to reports from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the most common reason for relapse is an untreated mental health problem.

“The best chance of recovery is through an integrated treatment program that includes treatment of the SUD and the mental health illness,” said Katie Stout.

Evidence-based treatment for co-occurring disorders includes: motivational interviewing, mindfulness based therapy, trauma informed therapy and 12 step facilitation.

Gateway is a recognized leader among behavioral health care providers in offering substance use disorder treatment, as well as treatment for individuals that are diagnosed with a co-occurring mental illness. To learn more about our treatment programs visit us at RecoverGateway.org.

Gateway Carbondale’s Executive Director Shares Concern Regarding Suicide Rates in Southern Illinois

Suicide is a Growing Concern

In the wake of recent suicides in Southern Illinois, especially Franklin and Williamson counties we realize our communities are not alone.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of suicide in the U.S. is the highest it has been in 25 years. It is among the top ten causes of death in the U.S., and the only cause within the top ten that has increased.[1]

Some researchers believe an important contributing factor to this rise is the surge in the abuse of prescription painkillers. Others point to our improved ability to manage health conditions, yet still inferior inability to manage mental health.[2]

Suicide and Substance Abuse Are Often Related

Many people are unaware of the high correlation between suicide and substance abuse. According to Psychologytoday.com, 45 percent of patients with untreated substance abuse disorders commit suicide. It is suicide and substance abuse, drug abusealso telling that 24 percent of suicide victims in the United States are legally drunk when they commit suicide.[3] At the Gateway center in Carbondale these statistics seem on target – we work with individuals whose use of drugs and alcohol have contributed to negative life factors that may become so severe as to lead to suicide.

Did you know it’s not uncommon for people to have a mental health issue that exists in tandem with their drug use? At Gateway, we see a high level of depression alongside of addictions, particularly with alcohol. Such situations can become cyclical where, as the depression or anxiety becomes increasingly severe, the person tries to manage it with more alcohol, opiates or other substances.

When treating individuals who manifest signs of having mental health and substance abuse issues (known as having co-occurring disorders), a multi-pronged, individualized approach to intervention is recommended. Otherwise, the risk of either or both disorders reoccurring is much higher.

Taking Action

The topic of suicide is not one that is generally talked about and most people don’t understand it or its connection to mental illness and substance abuse. Fortunately, progress is being made in the realm of scientific research towards potential interventions, medications and psychotherapies targeted specifically at reducing suicide.[4] Efforts such as these, combined with national awareness-raising efforts and those throughout southern Illinois, provide hope that members of our community may find the ability to address suicide in more meaningful ways.

We are saddened by the tragedy of the suicides that have occurred over the past several months, and would like to remind our community that Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Center in Carbondale is available to provide information and support. We encourage you to take advantage of our no-cost resources such as free consultations, online resources and a family guide.

If you or someone you love are experiencing feelings of depression, anxiety or other issues that may become overwhelming, know that help is available via suicide hotlines such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If drugs or alcohol are also involved, please don’t hesitate to call Gateway’s 24-hour hotline 877-505 HOPE (4673).

Lori Dammermann
Executive Director
Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Carbondale

[1] http://www.usnews.com/news/newsgram/articles/2014/10/08/us-suicides-hit-highest-rate-in-25-years

[2] Ibid.

[3] DrugFree.org

[4] http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2015/03/suicide-insel

Dual Diagnosis in Drug Rehab is More Common than You May Think

Expert Insight from Gilbert Lichstein, Program Director, Gateway Chicago West

4 in a Series of 4

Gateway Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centers employs evidenced-based practices to create meaningful, personalized treatment programs. We believe there is more than one pathway to recovery so we expose clients to a wide array of treatment methodologies. This series explores some of those methodologies.

Dual Diagnosis in Drug Rehab

dual diagnosis and drug rehabThe Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that 80% of individuals with addiction issues have a co-occurring Axis 1 mental health issue, also known as a dual diagnosis. Axis 1 disorders include depression, mania, excessive anxiety and psychosis.

One of Gateway’s distinguishing features is the depth with which we are able to address both issues. Upon arriving at Gateway, clients are given a comprehensive assessment. Should they be found to have both a substance abuse and an Axis 1 mental health issue, they are admitted to our dual-diagnosis unit.

Treating both diagnoses simultaneously truly helps the person free themselves from a destructive cycle, which greatly enhances the likelihood of successful treatment. Gateway’s personalized drug rehab plans address each individual’s specific needs.

Another unique aspect of Gateway’s methodology is our dual diagnosis group, which is offered in inpatient treatment. Individuals in treatment may also elect to involve family and loved ones in their recovery by participating in our family group component.

It’s very important to Gateway that our systems and staff reduce the stigmas that may be attached to substance abuse or a mental health disorder. We value a shame-free approach to treatment and want people to feel like themselves; like they are thriving rather than just getting by. Given the appropriate support, knowledge and skill building, clients are able to recover.

The dual diagnosis program at Gateway is measurable, using established tools that help us to assess, reassess and continually strengthen integrated treatment within our programs. This and many other features contribute to making Gateway a recognized leader among behavioral health providers offering substance abuse treatment as well as dual diagnosis treatment.

Treat Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders Together

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Article By:
Gilbert Lichstein, LCPC, M.S. Clinical Psychology
Program Director
Gateway Chicago West

Known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder, substance abuse and mental health issues frequently occur together. The likelihood of succeeding in treatment is greatly enhanced when both are treated simultaneously.

Clients arriving at Gateway receive a comprehensive assessment and those who are found to have an Axis 1 mental health disorder may be admitted to the dual diagnosis unit. Axis 1 disorders include depression, mania, excessive anxiety and psychosis. One of Gateway’s distinguishing features is the depth with which we are able to address these issues.

Dual diagnosis care involves creating an individualized, client-centered treatment plan, which is a hallmark of Gateway’s approach to all treatment. We work together with clients to develop mental health care that capitalizes on things that may have worked for them in the past.

During this process, we listen to strategies clients believe will work and synthesize this information with our expertise to provide feedback and enhance those strategies.Medication assisted treatment is offered, but not mandatory.

One aspect of treatment that sets Gateway programs apart from other programs is our co-occurring disorders group, which is a standard part of all our residential programs. The core curriculum is a mindfulness based sobriety curriculum that combines relapse therapy, motivational interviewing, and acceptance and commitment therapy, all of which are evidenced-based practices. Treatment for mental health disorders is built into the continuum of care, so discharge planning starts when the person enters treatment.

Patients may elect to have family and loved ones involved; our family group component is an evidence-based practice for mental health concerns.

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Treatment Programs and Gateway Chicago West

Life Skills Treatment and Recovery: the LSTAR Program

The LSTAR program at Gateway’s Chicago West location is an enhanced co-ed residential treatment program for people with both substance abuse and moderate to severe mental health concerns. More robust than our standard dual diagnosis program, LSTAR has proven to be effective for clients who did not succeed in other programs.

LSTAR provides more one-on-one contact, addressing mental health concerns with greater concentration. Individual counseling, psychological consultation, monitoring, nursing, testing and assessment are ongoing.

Additional components of LSTAR include:

  • Co-occurring group which uses an evidenced-based cognitive behavioral therapy curriculum
  • Mindfulness based sobriety, motivational interviewing, and seeking safety, a curriculum for co-morbid trauma and substance abuse
  • Single and multi-family group counseling, 12-step facilitation and transition groups to help clients adjust to outside care
  • Recreational therapy and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) anger management curriculum

To learn more about the treatment of co-occurring disorders, or for a free consultation, call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers today at 877-505-HOPE (4673) or visit RecoverGateway.org.

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