What an absolute pleasure to be asked to pen a few lines for the ‘Putting Stigma to Shame’ website. There are some simple reasons that explain why I was so enthusiastic to do so.
Firstly, there is no doubt that, although much progress has been made in the general public’s perception of ‘Mental Health Issues’, there remains a significant and sizeable minority of people who have little understanding of, or empathy for, those living with a mental health condition. Perhaps I’m wrong and in fact it’s a small majority of people who still lack understanding and empathy, either way – there’s certainly a way to go before the ‘Putting Stigma to Shame’ team can rest comfortably on their laurels.
Secondly, and this is partly linked to my belief that our understanding of mental health issues is growing, sadly mental health issues have experienced an alarming period of growth over the past 20-30 years. More and more people’s lives are being touched by mental health issues, and along with that, so (hopefully) understanding is nurtured. Can anyone really say that they don’t know anyone living with, or effected by, mental health issues? Whether it’s our parents, our siblings, our children, or our wider family or friendship group or colleagues, knowing someone living with these conditions certainly focuses our minds on what is involved…and sadly it appears that more and more of us know more people directly touched by mental health issues.
So, what’s behind this apparent increase in the number of people living with mental health conditions? Aside from (thankfully) more efficient diagnosis it’s clear that the world that was promised to Baby Boomers, and Generation X (of which I am a fully paid up member) never actually materialised.
Instead of Generation Y and Millennials being born into families where work was virtually abolished by the development of labour saving devices, computerisation, and the tech/digital revolutions of the 80s, 90s, noughties, and the teenies, they were born to parents working harder, working longer, and enjoying less recreation time than ever before. It hasn’t been quite as grim as I may have painted it – in spite of the demands of work – this generation of parents (and kids) also learned to party harder and party longer than any generation before it. It wasn’t all about Sex, and Drugs, and Rock’n’Roll, but in amongst all that partying was a heady cocktail of cigarettes, booze, weed, pills, cocaine, and so on…
Put that all together and you pretty much have a recipe for dramatically increasing mental health issues across the population as it ages – it’s been a perfect storm, spread over several decades.
So how closely linked are mental health issues to addiction? I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that addiction can certainly cause and/or exacerbate mental health conditions. Of course – all sorts of things can do that; bad relationships, challenging childhoods, learning difficulties, being a victim of violence, bereavement, the list is endless.
Unpleasant, negative, uncomfortable experiences are a challenge to our mental health. Bearing all that in mind it’s clear to see how addiction preys on those people living with mental health challenges. From birth we’re brainwashed into believing that booze, smoking, and drugs can help us relax, relieve stress, enjoy life, and get us through difficult times.
The effect of Hollywood in all this is more than a little sinister as it’s succeeded in glamorising a succession of addictive substances and behaviours – more often than not whilst being on the payroll of the cigarette and booze companies that benefit from the association.
It’s this brainwashing that tends to funnel people towards addiction.
The more stressed they are – the more susceptible they are to the brainwashing that implies that cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs might help them cope. This is the primary reason that often it’s strong-willed highfliers, first responders, and caring professions (who lead extremely stressful lives) and people living with mental health issues (who also lead extremely stressful lives) who appear particularly drawn towards addictive substances and behaviours. Of course, there are plenty of people in those high-stress roles in life who also live with mental health issues – it’s like a double-whammy. The great news – is that as long as the right method is used – it can be easy for anyone to escape from the addiction trap – regardless of how convinced they’ve become that the addictive drug or behaviour has helped them to cope.
Does it make a difference if the addict takes medication intended to assist their mental health? Not at all. Depending on the medication – it might or might not help the person deal with their mental health issue (that’s a huge subject that I’ll sidestep at this point) the fact is that often they mistakenly credit the drug or behaviour to which they’re addicted for any benefit that might be provided by the medication, or for that matter, by any other support that they might receive (counselling, friendship groups, exercise etc).
The determination of Allen Carr, and myself, over the past 20-35 years to apply the Easyway method to as many addictions and issues as possible is obvious when one ticks off our achievements to date. But we have a long way to go.
Escaping from addiction won’t necessarily cure anyone’s mental health condition but it will certainly help tremendously. The beauty of Allen Carr’s method is that rather than pitting the addict’s willpower vs the drug, which inevitably leads to either failure or some kind of miserable, deprived version of freedom (often followed by a return to the addiction), it simply removes the compulsion to take the drug or engage in the behaviour.
Once an addict understands the beautiful truth, that the only feeling of pleasure or relief that they obtain from a drug is the ending of the dissatisfied feeling (of withdrawal) that was caused by the very first shot of the drug – they generally find it easy to quit. No pain. No suffering. Just a feeling of sweet release.
Of course, the method covers with great efficiency the psychological side of the addiction or behaviour, which, after all, is the main problem with escaping addiction. It normally takes just a few hours for an addict to be set free. The terrific sense of freedom and empowerment experienced can have an exceptionally positive impact on the mental health of the former addict – quite the opposite effect to that experienced by those hardy souls who attempt to quit using mere willpower (which is always tough).
We’re often asked by prospective clients thinking about attending our live seminars, online video programmes, or reading our books, if the method is effective for those with mental health conditions. In spite of that broadest of brushes, the question clearly covers everything from the mildest of conditions to the most severe, we can always happily answer to the affirmative. Addiction IS a mental health issue and it impacts negatively on other mental health conditions, every one of which can be helped by escaping the clutches of addiction.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish Andrew Newson and ‘Putting Stigma to Shame’ the very best of luck in achieving it’s brief in the most widespread and effective fashion possible. It’s a fabulous thing that you’re doing.
Allen Carr’s Easyway method has been applied to smoking, vaping, alcohol, “other drugs”, weight issues, sugar addiction, gambling, spending addiction, mindfulness, and tech/digital addiction. For details see www.allencarr.com
Use code “NoStigma” to obtain a £50 discount at our live seminars (offer expires 30th September 2019).