Substance Abuse and Addiction a Mental Illness
“A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease” is the World Health Organization’s (WHO, 2012) well known definition of health. It is understood that health is referring to one’s physical state however it is also unnoticed that mental state is also a determinant of health. The general public has little or no knowledge about mental illness, as it is often a sensitive subject. Furthermore, mental illness is completely invisible unlike most general health conditions. This leads the majority of society to be unaware of its presence. This lack of awareness has a direct effect on society’s general knowledge of the subject. As a result, stigma coexists with all forms of mental illness, affecting all individuals involved with the area of health. Nurses have a responsibility to be advocates for patient health as a part of their practice. The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) outlines a list of competencies which nurses must maintain and meet within their practice. The CNA framework (2010) specifically mentions supporting healthy public policy and social justice in nursing practice. This includes working to regulate and support those affected by mental illness stigma. As practicing student nurses, we understand that it is our role in the health care system and within our communities to raise awareness about mental illness stigma and promote prevention. As a result, we have chosen to research and present our information and knowledge on substance abuse and addiction as a part of mental illness to a grade nine class. On October 13, 2012, we presented a topic on substance abuse and addiction to a group of grade nine students at Erindale Secondary School (International) in Mississauga. We felt this group was appropriate due to the fact that they are at a stage in life where they may be coming across or be thinking about experimenting with drugs and alcohol. High school is a time when most students are a susceptible target for substance abuse. School starts getting harder towards the end of high school; grades need to be higher for college or university application; expectations from the family increases; and there may be peer pressure to smoke, do drugs, or drink alcohol. All of these things may pose as factors that increase the likelihood to use substances. This recreational experimentation can eventually lead to substance abuse. At the same time, a lot of stigma is attached to high school students as well. Those that are not under as much stress or have better coping strategies and better support systems may look at substance abuse as something others do to be cool. The most effective method we found would be to use a PowerPoint presentation along with a video presentation. By using the PowerPoint presentation, it would draw the attention of the students and allow them to easily visualize what is being explained. It also gave the students a chance to read along with the presentation, again making it easier to follow. The images added along with the video add visual appeal and draw the students in and keep them interested. At the beginning of the project, we decided to look at different ways in which we could present to a group of students to help them gain more knowledge about mental health. We looked at several different subtopics we could cover about substance abuse and addiction as a mental illness. Ultimately we decided to focus on substance abuse and addictions and how it affects people, in specific, young people. We wanted to raise awareness about this issue. Some of the members of the groups have loved ones who have dealt with the issue of substance abuse and addiction. This helped steer the group to pursue the topic. Due to the stigmatization of substance abuse and addiction, many people feel that it can be shameful to admit and seek help if they are experiencing such a mental illness, this in turn makes it difficult for...
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Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
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Canadian Nurses Association
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Oxford Brookes University
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