Your mental health can be impacted by so many things including addiction to drugs and alcohol, and treatment isn't always straight forward as mental health workers weigh up what to treat first: the addiction or mental health. In a part of our society still so full of stigma and stereotypes what do you need to know about substance abuse, mental health and the treatment options available to you and your loved ones? This is what we discuss in this episode.
Dr Julaine Allan is a social work researcher who specialises in evaluating what works for people in rural health care, especially when they have problems with drugs and alcohol. Julaine has worked in research, education and community health in rural Australia for over 30 years and is a strong advocate for changing systems that overlook the impact of poverty, racism and exclusion on people’s lives. Julaine is National Research Manager at Lives Lived Well, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of QLD and conjoint academic at the National Drug And Alcohol.
Lynette Bullen was born and raised in Orange and is a descendant of a Wiradjuri Women from the Nyngan area. With around 25 years’ experience in the Drug and Alcohol field, Lynette has worked in metropolitan, regional, rural and remote NSW. She has held a range of positions including an A & OD Counsellor, Aftercare Coordinator and Educator.
In recent years Lynette has worked predominately within Aboriginal communities in and around the Murdi Paaki region of NSW, providing clinical supervision and education to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal health workers.
Lynette has held a position on the editorial committee with ADCA News and was a contributor to the Handbook for Aboriginal Alcohol and Drug Work which was published in 2012 by the Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney. She has also provided assistance with the creation of the ‘Grog Survey’ app which has been developed in collaboration between Sydney University and South Australia Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council.
For the last six years Lynette has worked as the senior Drug and Alcohol Outreach Worker with the Involuntary Drug and Alcohol Treatment (IDAT) Unit, Bloomfield Campus Orange. She is currently providing group and individual treatment during admission and as an outreach worker following discharge from IDAT Unit.
Shanna Whan is a speaker, blogger, author, and a fierce ambassador for alcohol awareness across rural Australia. Since recovering from her own battle with alcoholism four years ago, she now calls out the unacceptable gaps in services and support for rural peers and professionals. Her website is Sober in the Country.
Andrew House grew up in country NSW living in Cowra, Condobolin and Griffith. Andrew completed year 10. He attended school and was not interested in learning as he had previous unpleasant experiences. Andrew relocated from Condobolin to Griffith and repeated 2nd grade due to his age and really wasn’t interested in relearning to read and write as he was already competent. He also found out that he was adopted and didn’t cope well with that and began acting out, smoking cigarettes, fighting and running away.
Andrew had his first drug, which was alcohol, when he was nearly 15 years of age. He didn’t know he was an alcoholic until he had that first drink. He also used other substances, cannabis, speed, acid, cocaine, heroin and pills very heavily.
He left home at 17 years of age and was mostly homeless from that time.
He was in three different jails and had eight admissions into rehab. His last admission was on the 19 August 1985. Since then he has been totally abstinent from all substances.
Andrew spent 19 months in rehab and at eight years clean began working in the Alcohol and Other Drugs field. He has had six years in therapeutic communities, 17 years with NSW Corrective Services and now works with the Royal Flying Doctor Service based in Broken Hill.
There is a complex relationship between mental health and alcohol and other drugs. Often people experiencing a mental health problem may use alcohol or other drugs to provide relief or cope with their symptoms. While for others, the use of alcohol and other drugs may trigger symptoms of a mental health problem.
People in regional and remote areas are more likely than those in the city to drink alcohol in risky quantities. The good news is that people in regional and remote areas are seeking treatment for alcohol and other drugs at a higher rate than those in the city. 
Mindframe Guidelines for Alcohol and Other Drugs – Everymind has developed some comprehensive evidence-based guidelines for communicating and reporting about alcohol and other drugs. These guidelines aim to help reduce the stigma associated with alcohol and other drugs and to increase help-seeking behaviour for people living with issues related to AOD use and their families.
Your Room – provides facts on alcohol and other drugs, tools and activities, support and treatment options. There is similar information relevant to Indigenous people. Click here. Your Room also has a video on where and how to get help for drug and alcohol use. This video was produced by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District but is relevant to those across NSW, click here to watch.
SANE – provides information about the signs that you or someone else may have a problem with alcohol and other drugs, how to get help and how to change habits. Click here to read their guide. SANE also has information for those supporting someone with both mental health and alcohol or drug problems, click here to read their tips.
Beyond Blue – provides information on how alcohol and drugs can affect your brain and how to change your habits and reduce the risks.
Hello Sunday Morning – provides advice for family and friends on how to start productive conversations about drinking with someone you care about.
On Track with the Right Mix – is a free app which helps people manage their alcohol consumption by tracking the number and types of drinks, calculating the amount of money spent and reviewing the impact the drinking has on wellbeing. While the app is designed for defence personnel, most of the features are relevant to non-defence personnel too. The app can be downloaded from the App Store (iPhones) or Google Play (Android).
FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
Reachout – provides information for young people on alcohol and drugs and how to keep the risks to a minimum. Reachout also has information for parents to help understand teenage alcohol use and tips for supporting teenagers.
Counselling Online provides free 24/7 web chat and email services that allow you to talk with a professional counsellor about an alcohol or drug-related concern. The website also provides an online tool for self-assessment, peer support forums, self-help tools and SMS support.
Lives Lived Well provides support for people in NSW and QLD communities who are being impacted by alcohol or drugs or problems with mental health. They offer counselling and other services.
‘How I beat the bottle and started to live again’ – Read this inspiring article in our latest Glove Box Guide to Mental Health (page 46-47) about Shanna Whan and her battle with alcohol. In this article, Shanna provides some useful tips from her lived experience.