Throughout much of America’s history, mental and substance use disorders shared a dark past in which people who lived with them were blamed for their condition. Treatment was rarely available. Each disorder was considered to be intractable and stories of recovery were rare. People living with substance use disorders or mental illness were expected to end up in the least favorable places in society: in the gutter, prisons, asylums, or morgues. They also faced rejection by family, friends, and communities, and faced disgrace in society. Families of people living with mental and/or substance use disorders were silenced by shame, prejudice, and discrimination associated with these conditions. SAMHSA’s Recovery Month is writing a new chapter in American history by bringing substance use and mental illness into the light and honoring the many pathways to recovery.
Recovery Month began in 1989 as a campaign and celebration to change the public face of recovery. It promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible. Each September thousands of people across the United States publicly celebrate their recovery to increase awareness that satisfying and purposeful lives are possible for people in recovery.
The 2013 Recovery Month theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together on Pathways to Wellness,” celebrates the many ways that people and communities can prevent behavioral health issues, access treatment, and sustain recovery. The theme emphasizes the importance of mental, physical, and emotional health, and the value of family, friends, and communities in supporting the recovery journey.
The Recovery Month toolkit helps service providers increase awareness of the power of recovery. It also assists in planning Recovery Month events and offers resources to distribute during local events. Materials produced for Recovery Month include print, Web, television, radio, and social media tools. These resources help local communities to reach out and encourage people in need of services, and their friends and families, to seek treatment and recovery services and information.
Recovery Month events are as varied as the pathways to recovery. One community sponsors a conference with inspirational and educational speakers; another hosts a community meal followed by Native American dancers and drummers. Still another holds a 5K run followed by a celebration in the park. These events bring together people in recovery, family, friends, service providers, politicians, and community members. While the activities may differ, the message remains the same: recovery is possible when services and supports are available to individuals, families, and communities.
Recovery Month provides us all an opportunity to write a new story about experiences of mental illness, substance use, and recovery. No longer do individuals, families and communities have to endure social exclusion and isolation because of behavioral health issues. They can now come together to celebrate the possibility of recovery. This September, join the voices for recovery! Everyone is welcome.
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