It’s National Recovery Month!

Each September, SAMHSA, the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration sponsors “National Recovery Month” to increase awareness of mental health and substance use issues. Key themes include: 1) mental health is essential to overall health; 2) prevention works; 3) treatments are effective; and 4) recovery is possible.

The Recovery Month theme for 2016 is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery!” The initiative encourages persons with mental health or substance use issues and their supporters to become active in promoting positive change through advocacy events by discussing prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Current statistics

The Recovery Month web page provides a thorough review of important statistics about mental illness and substance use in the US. These data (from 2014) include:

  • Nearly one in five persons (about 43.6 million people) had a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder (not including developmental or substance use disorders).
  • 21.5 million people (age 12 or older) had a substance dependence or misuse disorder.
  • 7.7 million adults had both a substance use disorder and a mental illness in the past year.
  • By 2020, mental health and substance use disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide.
  • Two-thirds of Americans believe treatment and support can help people lead more fulfilling lives.
  • Research has shown that most people who start and continue with treatment do stop using drugs, have less criminal activity, and show improved emotional, occupational, and social functioning.

Guiding principles and dimensions of recovery

The Recovery Month toolkit contains a great overview of the concept of recovery as it relates to mental illness and substance use. Recovery is characterized by several important guiding principles, including:

  • Recovery emerges from hope, which is fostered by friends, families, providers, colleagues, and others who have experienced recovery themselves
  • Recovery occurs via many pathways, which may include professional clinical treatment, use of medications, support from families and in schools, faith-based approaches, peer support, and other approaches
  • Recovery is holistic, meaning recovery encompasses a person’s whole life including mind, body, spirit, and community
  • Recovery is supported by relationships with peers and allies, and on social networks
  • Recovery is culturally based and influenced
  • Recovery is supported by addressing trauma, including physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, disaster, or profound loss
  • Recovery involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibilities
  • Recovery is fostered by respect

Additionally, recovery includes four major dimensions:

1) Health: Both physical and mental health are important, and learning to manage one’s condition(s) or symptom(s) through informed, healthy choices.

2) Home: Having a safe, stable place to live.

3) Purpose: Participation in meaningful activities, including work, school, volunteering, hobbies, interests, or other fulfilling pursuits.

4) Community: Building relationships and social networks which can provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

Target audiences

New to this year’s Recovery Month toolkit are detailed sections to help four specific target audiences at risk for difficulties related to mental health and substance misuse:

1) Military, veterans, and military families

This section provides specific information about mental and/or substance use disorders in the military culture, and offers resources in support of veterans’ recovery and military families.   

2) Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community

This section highlights the prevalence of mental and/or substance use disorders in the LGBT community, while addressing the specific needs of LGBT adults and youth in recovery.

3) Victims of trauma

This section provides trauma survivors and loved ones with resources about finding support to help further cope with a traumatic event.

4) Family members of those with mental and/or substance use disorders

This section highlights the importance of an individual focusing on their well-being to better support a loved one in recovery from a mental and/or substance use disorder.

Get involved

There’s a wealth of material on the Recovery Month website to help you plan advocacy events, educate others, and do targeted outreach with specific groups, such as those listed above.

Additionally, you will find information about some of the most common mental disorders and misused substances, plus links to organizations that provide information and resources about prevention, treatment, and recovery support services.

Let’s all take action now to help fulfill the campaign’s theme to “join the voices for recovery.” 

Here’s a question: How can you get involved to promote recovery related to mental health or substance use issues? Please leave a comment. Also please consider subscribing to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!

  • Katie Wilkie

    “By 2020, mental health and substance use disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide.”

    Wow, what a staggering projection. My goodness.

    Dr. Susman, great to be connected with you through the Twittersphere! I am looking forward to speaking with you further about your work. I am astounded that this projection is less than 4 years away, and wow…I think if ever there were a time to orchestrate a shift in the mental health conversation, now would be that time.

    Thanks for the post. Lovely again to connect with you.


  • Katie, thanks for your comment. Nice to connect with you. I too find this statistic troubling and agree we need to keep stepping up the conversation to promote better awareness of mental health issues and improved access to effective services.

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