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Advocates Speak Out: Mental Illness is Not a Halloween Costume 

Advocates Speak Out: Mental Illness is Not a Halloween Costume 

Author: Shernide Delva

Boo! Halloween is around the corner, which means it is that time of the year where people try to go above and beyond with their costume choices.  Of course, there are the usual go-to Halloween costumes we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing. You know what they are: the ghost, the mummy, the “sexy firefighter.”   Costumes like these are pretty harmless and non-offensive.

However,  every year at this time, alongside the vampires, and flesh-eating zombies are the mental hospital patients. You have seen those too. The serial killer, the psychopath, and the “mental institution escapee” are popular choices.  Although costumes like these are familiar, we often don’t think about how those costumes could offend those with mental illnesses. Are costumes like these only further perpetuating the stereotypes?

If you’re like most, you probably thought nothing of these mental illness costumes. However, many have come forward to spread awareness of how these costumes further promote stigma. Now, there is a movement towards informing the public that costumes like these are not harmless.

The Negative Portrayal of Mental Illness

The media already portrays mental illness in such a negative way, and mental illness costumes only further validate those stereotypes.  For those with mental illnesses, they often feel ostracized because of the negative portrayal their disease receives.

Recently, an amusement-park attraction called “Fear VR: 5150” shut down because it centered on an “insane asylum cum horror show.” Several people who struggled with mental illness, or had a loved one struggle with it, found the attraction to be insensitive and inappropriate.

Now, the conversation is shifting towards Halloween costumes.  Mental-illness stigmas are all around us, especially in television and movies. People with psychosis are routinely portrayed as serial killers, or worse.  Just a brief search online and you will see costumes playing on all sorts of mental illness stereotypes. It is likely there will be at least one serial killer, or straitjacket child ringing your doorbell this Halloween.

Advocates Want the Costumes to Stop

So with all the efforts lately to break the stereotypes of mental illness, should there be more of an emphasis on Halloween costumes? Advocates firmly believe so. In recent weeks, there have been numerous arguments made.

Lindsay Holmes, the editor of the Huffington Post, said,

“Mental Illness is a Health Condition, Not Halloween Entertainment.”

Furthermore, writer Colby Iktowitz said in the Washington Post

“Halloween attractions use mental illness to scare us. ”

Iktowitz went on to explain the important reasons why mental illness costumes and attractions should cease to exist.  Iktowitz says the message these costumes send isn’t subtle: People with mental illness are to be feared.

While many of us will read this article and think, “what’s a big deal?” The reality is that for many, costumes like these are incredibly hurtful because they mimic real scenarios they have endured. Pete Earley, an author, and advocate has stood up against these costumes and attractions.

“I realize that some think our protests are political correctness run amok,” he said, “but when you know people who are afraid of seeking treatment because they don’t want to be seen as ‘loonies,’ you understand just how harmful these costumes can be.”

The stigmas surrounding mental illness do not come from the words. They come from how the general public perceives those words. Words like bipolar, schizophrenic and psychopath conjure images in our mind because of how movies and costumes depict them to us.

Showing Support Towards Others

Ultimately, it’s the mass fear of mental illness driven by the public that prevents millions of people from seeking treatment for their condition. Without treatment, their condition worsens, and the scarier the disease can indeed become.

The good news is those with mental illness can recover, or improve with proper treatment and support. For those of us lucky enough to not struggle with mental illnesses, perhaps it might be helpful not to portray them in such a scary light.  It is just a thought. Personally, I’ve become so accustomed to seeing these costumes; it ‘s hard to see how offensive they can be. However, by looking at things from multiple points of view, it allows for better understanding and compassion for others.

What do you think? Should people be more considerate of their costume choices when it comes to mental illnesses?

Halloween is a time for fun and a time to portray all sorts of characters. Still, for those with mental illnesses, their condition does not just go away once November 1st hits. Treatment is critical, and fear should never stop a person from seeking treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling, please reach out and get help. Call toll-free now. We want to help.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Why Macklemore “Drug Dealer” Music Video Hits Hard on Opioid Crisis

Why Macklemore “Drug Dealer” Music Video Hits Hard on Opioid Crisis

Author: Justin Mckibben

Early yesterday afternoon I caught a shared video link on my Facebook feed to the new Macklemore video. It was the first I had heard of it, and the person sharing it seemed pretty impressed. The title for the video- “Drug Dealer”– is already enticing. Once you see it, it’s hard not to get pulled into the cold, dark reality of it. I shared it, and watched it a couple times by the end of the day.

Honestly, if you haven’t seen it by now I would be absolutely shocked.

Later, I noticed on my feed it had been shared by 20+ people I knew, and the comments were praising this harsh and devastating depiction of withdrawal and addiction more and more. The spark was lit and the story has since taken off. So what was it about the Macklemore “Drug Dealer” music video that made its message so strong?

Describing “Drug Dealer” Music Video

This latest piece of work directed by Jason Koenig tells a haunting and dramatic story from the open shot. Throughout the “Drug Dealer” music video the theme is consistently set in intensity, and the darkness of the battle with addiction is complimented in the visual contrast.

The first clip begins with Macklemore himself curled up in a naked ball in a shower. It skips back and forth between shots of him twisting on an empty mattress in a dirty room decorated with drugs, and close up shots of Macklemore’s sweaty, swollen face. The close-ups are portraits of pain as the artist passionately raps about opioid addiction, eyes dark and teary that are almost entirely fixed on the camera.

Breaking Down “Drug Dealer” Music Video Lyrics

The words to the song are powerful, direct and damning to the Pharmaceutical Industry and the crooked doctors that many say have made the determining contribution to the opiate epidemic in America. Macklemore makes some raw and heartbreaking revelations in his lyrics.

  1. Calling out Big Pharma

One line implies that billionaire drug companies pay off crooks in congress, but executives never see prison time for their crimes. Probably referencing numerous stories of drug companies being sued for falsely marketing drugs as not addictive, and hiding research information.

Singer Ariana Deboo is featured on the chorus, and Deboo also appears in the “Drug Dealer” music video, drowning in a sea of red and white pills as she voices her contribution. Deboo’s vocals are a evocative melody of words that point a blatant finger at the Pharmaceutical Industry and the crooked doctors in America. Her words ring out-

“My drug dealer was a doctor, doctor

Had the plug from Big Pharma, Pharma

He said that he would heal me, heal me

But he only gave me problems, problems

My drug dealer was a doctor, doctor

Had the plug from Big Pharma, Pharma

I think he trying to kill me, kill me

He tried to kill me for a dollar, dollar.”

Neither Macklemore or Deboo seem to be pulling any punches in this one. The scary part is these words are so firmly based in truth. In fact, over time controversy has continued to boil as reports shed light on doctors getting kick-backs for prescribing drugs from the companies that produce them.

  1. Celebrity overdoses

In another few lines he makes mention of several other artists that have died due to drugs, especially prescription drugs, including:

These are just a handful of the celebrities in the past few years who have suffered or died in relation to prescription drug abuse.

  1. Calling out the music industry

In one line Macklemore says “we dancing to a song about a face gone numb” pointing out how despite the fact that more people are dying from drug overdoses than ever before, we have a society that generates a music industry where artists glorify drug abuse. Even though some of these same artists don’t use drugs, they just say what sells. Macklemore seems to be calling out the icons of our time to stand for something instead of just trying to sell anything they can.

  1. Why now?

In the “Drug Dealer” music video Macklemore also challenges the fact that since the opiate epidemic has made it into the suburbs from the city it is suddenly everyone’s problem. Many have argued that the epidemic wasn’t such a public health concern until it was no longer only hurting low-income inner-city communities.

This same segment of the song also stands to shake the addiction stigma that it only happens in certain areas with certain groups.

  1. Reality of addiction and recovery

A great moment is toward the end of the song when the momentum reaches a fever-pitch. The distortion of the vocals and the shouting, sweat-smeared face in the camera says enough, but the reality of what Macklemore is sharing about his own desperation is gripping.

Then, he says the serenity prayer.

This prayer is one well known to pretty much anyone in the recovery community. It is recited in many 12 Step groups, depending on the group’s format and function. Most recovering addicts and alcoholics know it by heart. The video lightens up to a scene of Macklemore sitting in a 12 Step meeting, surrounded by people sharing. He gets a hug from another member, and the credits roll.

A Man with a Message

The “Drug Dealer” music video is part of the release of the first new single from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis since earlier this year when they released their sophomore album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. Macklemore is a man with a message who has been open about his own struggle with addiction for some time. He celebrated his sobriety and discussed his addiction in his music before. He even opened up after a brief relapse a while back.

Macklemore recently discussed America’s opioid crisis with President Barack Obama in the MTV documentary Prescription for Change and has continued to try and be a voice shouting for reform and revolutionary action against the opiate epidemic and the overdose outbreak destroying millions of lives.

There are so many reasons this song hits so hard on the opioid crisis in our country. For anyone who has experienced it first hand, whether their own addiction or that of a loved one, the fight is very graphic and very real. Macklemore’s new “Drug Dealer” music video looks you in the eyes with the intensity of that fight. It is hard to watch, but it’s something too many people have to live every day.

As part of most recovery fellowships, we often share our stories. As part of the battle against the shady practices of Big Pharma, we should call politicians to action. And as part of overcoming the opiate epidemic, we raise awareness. Macklemore’s new “Drug Dealer” music video takes a stab at all of these. Along with such action, effective treatment is also critical to change. If you or someone you love is struggling, please reach out and get help. Call toll-free now. We want to help. You are not alone.

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4 Meditation Tips for More Mindfulness

4 Meditation Tips for More Mindfulness

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

When we think of meditation and mindfulness we often have a certain image or experience in our mind. Some people think it must be a profound and extremely disciplined experience every time. Our misconceptions about what meditation really is often deter us from actively practicing it. However when we do practice, we realize the benefits of mindfulness. Regardless of how you imagine meditation should be, give yourself plenty of opportunity to try it out and see what is could be.

Here are 4 meditation tips for more mindfulness.

  1. You’re NOT “bad” at meditation

When the concept of meditation is suggested, some people immediately assume they are “bad at it.” They allow their preconceptions of what meditation is supposed to mean tell them can’t successfully use it to find serenity. The very simplicity of meditation can itself present a challenge because the mind’s habitual nature prefers stimulation through distraction over intense focus.

It is as if you find yourself in a quiet space, sit in silence and then continuously ask yourself- “am I meditating yet?” or “Is this how I’m supposed to do it?”

The reality is meditation is not strictly limited to sitting in full-lotus with candles everywhere and yogi music playing. Meditation is about the practice of drawing awareness to the present, and some people meditate through activities or exercise.

Yoga, for example, is described by many as a moving meditation. So, don’t trouble yourself with wondering if you’re meditating ‘right’ or if you are ‘bad at it,’ because your practice is yours. The more you practice, the more it will grow into whatever you need it to be.

  1. The goal is NOT to be “good” at meditation

Just like with the assumption that you can be ‘bad at it,’ if you approach meditation with the goal of “I want to be good at this” you’re probably going to be disappointed. There are no gold medals for meditation… at least, not that I know of. But anyone can just go buy a gold Buddha if it’s really that important to them.

Sometimes meditation can be boring. In our world on smartphones and constant connection, we rarely have to be bored anymore. Just because you get bored doesn’t mean you have to be better at meditating, it is just a thought we all feel. Recognize it, reflect and move on. Even people who have been meditating a long time can still get bored with it.

When meditation is offered to many of us in early recovery we may have this thought that once we ‘master’ meditation we will begin to see results right away. We are the type to thrive off instant gratification after all. We want it to help us get well right away, but it doesn’t always work like that. Just remember, there are no trophies for meditation… I think.

  1. Don’t criticize your mind

We utilize the practice of meditation to set an intention and focus, but also to notice when the mind loses focus, and to see where it goes. The mind is good at wandering, but you should never criticize yourself for it. Being the witness to the wandering mind is part of the practice. If you begin to think on other things, just be aware of those things as they present themselves.

Just as a random example- If my intention in meditation is on my gratitude, and suddenly my mind has drifted off into the dynamics of my relationships with my family, I should take notice. Maybe my mind is trying to tell me how grateful I am for my family. Maybe it is telling me how gratitude brings them to mind. I acknowledge the thought and come back into focus. I should not criticize my mind for drifting off topic, or criticize the thoughts themselves.

Sometimes we beat ourselves up because the mind will take us so far from our intention we forget how we got there. We begin to feel we are ‘bad at it’ again, or that we are wasting time. Don’t let these frustrations or the nature of the wandering mind make you critical. Be present to your mediation without judgment.

  1. Let go of the outcome of your meditation

Once we’re aware of the benefits of meditating, we might set expectation on every experience. You might trick yourself into thinking you must feel a certain way, but expectations can be down-payments on disappointments. We may expect to feel calm and relaxed; clarity and serenity, and when we don’t get the outcome we anticipate we can get frustrated.

In reality meditation will lead you to several different experiences. Sometimes the experience will change multiple times within a single session. Part of the practice is letting go of the outcome. Approach your meditation with an open heart and mind. Waiting for a specific result can also distance us from the present moment.

Again, meditation is about being aware and in tune with the present. It is not about judging our experience. Meditating to be “good at it” is like saying you watched TV for hours just to make sure the remote works. Your mind and the present are already there, meditation is just about taking the time away from your overactive or analytical mode to notice them. Don’t expect answers all the time, just be aware and listen.

Meditation can reform the mind in the most incredible ways, and it is often one of the best medicines for people in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. It can be used for mental, emotional and even physical fitness. Holistic recovery is about a lot more than removing drugs and alcohol; it is also about rewiring our thinking. If you or someone you love is struggling, find out how holistic healing can help.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Fl. Voters Notice Medical Marijuana Vote Missing On Their Absentee Ballot

Fl. Voters Notice Medical Marijuana Vote Missing On Their Absentee Ballot

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

One of the most heavily debated topics on the Florida ballot is Amendment 2. Amendment 2 poses the question as to whether or not to legalize medical marijuana.  However, several Florida residents have come forward stating their absentee ballots were mysteriously missing amendment 2.

For example, resident Karen Goldstein received an absentee ballot earlier this month in Broward County.  When she looked for the spot to vote for Amendment 2, it was mysteriously missing.  Multiple Florida voters have now reported receiving absentee ballots without the medical marijuana initiative on it.

Filing Suit

Now, a lawyer has filed suit against Broward County officials stating the ballots could cause “irreparable harm” and deny residents their constitutional rights.

“The end result of this error is catastrophic and cataclysmic,” Norm Kent, a lawyer for marijuana reform group NORML, wrote in a filing obtained by the Miami Herald.

Kent is trying to get an emergency court hearing on Monday. It is uncertain whether or not a handful of absentee ballots were affected, or thousands of them. At the time of publication, Kent had received six calls about the matter.

A pro-marijuana campaign manager said election officials told him the ballots, without the question, were likely test ballots. Still, an error like this could be huge.

Florida, with its infamous reputation for polling problems, starts early voting on Monday.

The Amendment 2 issue is only now gaining media attention. Since last week, Former Oakland Park Commissioner, Anne Sallee, says she was trying unsuccessfully to get someone at the Broward elections office to pay attention to her complaint. She noticed on her absentee ballot that amendment 2 for medical marijuana was missing.

“They said, ‘Oh, no, you’re mistaken. It’s there,’ “Sallee recounted.

The ballot, which Sallee sent to the Sun Sentinel, jumps from Amendment 1 to Amendment 3. Somehow, the ballot was missing Amendment 2.  Last Wednesday, Broward Elections Supervisor Dr. Brenda Snipes said that her team found no evidence of these faulty ballots sent to voters.

“We have a check-and-balance system. We can go back and see what we did send to the printer,” Snipes said. “When you’re dealing with this much paper and this many people, we may have made a mistake. But I haven’t heard a lot of people saying, ‘I don’t have it, either.’ We’ve already sent [Sallee] another ballot.”

One of Many Ballot Mistakes

If there is an error in the ballots, it would not be the first this election season. Snipes and her team were just cleared on Wednesday for a major election mistake. Her office received criticism after sending inaccurate voter ID cards and for printing ballots for November that included the word “no” in the “yes” line on the county’s transportation sales surtax question.

Despite, the ongoing mistakes, Snipes said she has not seen any ballots missing amendment 2.

“We can’t find a copy of a ballot that does not have the marijuana issue on it,” she said.

Still, Sallee says both her and her husband’s ballots were missing the important question.  To warn others, she sent emails to neighbors to double check their ballots. Many of them found that their ballots were in fact also missing Amendment 2.

Assistant State Attorney Tim Donnelly said in a closeout memo Wednesday that the results were “negligently posted, for a brief period of time, prior to the closing of the polls. However, there is insufficient evidence that anyone purposely intended to post any election results prior to the closing of the polls, in violation of the criminal statutes.”

Ensure Your Ballot Contains Amendment 2!

Ultimately, a mistake like this could delay election results across the state.  Vote-by-mail ballots open on Monday.  If you are utilizing this option, please ensure your Florida ballot contains all the amendments that are in this election.

What do you think happened? How will you be voting? Medical marijuana is a serious topic of debate this year. Allowing residents of Florida the opportunity to vote on this topic is crucial. Overall, whether you agree with medical marijuana or not, you should at least be able to vote on it. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free today.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Saturday, October 22nd: National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

Saturday, October 22nd: National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

Author: Shernide Delva

The Drug Enforcement Administration is hosting another National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October 22, 2016. Hosted nationwide, the DEA will use the day to provide a responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs. Another focus will be educating the public about the potential for misuse and abuse of these medications.

“Eighty percent of new heroin users started by using opioid prescription drugs,” explains DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt. “DEA’s National Prescription Pill Take-Back Initiative is a way for families to prevent drug use, abuse, and overdoses by ridding their medicine cabinets of unused, unwanted and expired medication.”

Released last month, the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that approximately 6.4 million Americans age 12 and over abuse prescription drugs. The same survey showed that each and every day, 2,500 teens take a prescription drug to get high for the first time.

Reason for Take-Back Day

Prescription drug abuse exceeds the total drug abuse of cocaine, heroin, magic mushrooms, LSD, mescaline, and methamphetamine combined.  Since drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States, it is more crucial than ever to have a drug-take-back day in this country. Drug overdoses kill more people than car accidents.

Furthermore, at the last semi-annual event in April, more than 893,498 pounds of unwanted medicines were collected at 5,400 sites spread across 50 states. Together, this totals an incredible 447 tons of medications, exceeding the previous record of 390 tons back in spring 2014.

According to the DEA press release, the top five states with the largest collections were:

  1. Texas (almost 40 tons)
  2. California (32 tons)
  3. Wisconsin (31 tons)
  4. Illinois (24 tons)
  5. Massachusetts (24 tons)

Over the past six years, the DEA has collected and destroyed about 6.4 million pounds of unused prescription drugs in total. More than 3,800 members of local law enforcement agencies and community partners participate in the program. National Drug Take-Back Day is not going anywhere and will continue to be an unqualified success. It clearly is needed more than ever before.

DEA Special Agent in Charge, Stephen G. Azzam, points out,

“Prescription drug abuse has become the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem, destroying countless lives. The DEA’s Take-Back initiative provides another way to address this epidemic and a safe way for our citizens to dispose of their unwanted prescription drugs and reduce the threat they pose to public health and safety.”

If you would like to locate a National Prescription Drug Take-Back collection site near you, please check out this helpful link.

Drug addiction is an epidemic spreading worldwide. Drug overdoses are taking away lives at tragic numbers. Prevent the drugs in your home from abuse by disposing of them correctly. Participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back day. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free today.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

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