Addiction & Mental Health: Breaking the Stigma (highlights)

Addiction & Mental Health: Breaking the Stigma (highlights)


I like characters that are flawed that
are trying but who fall down and make mistakes, and I’ve always loved like a
lot of sadness and my comedy which did not make me a successful stand-up. People in America are moved by anecdote, not necessarily by science. In America, people learn everything through pop culture and that content has a big responsibility to
portray mental health, to portray addiction in responsible and accurate
ways. When we reduce stigma around mental health issues, addiction issues, eating
disorder issues, what we do is we allow people out there in the real world who
are struggling to feel like they are safe and secure to say, “I need help.” It is
life-saving to open up this dialogue. What are the realities of someone’s seeking
treatment for addiction or mental health? What does it look like right
now? Right now there’s an overdose crisis where 70 thousand people are dying every
single year and I think that there is a responsibility to not be quiet about
that and to speak up. People who overuse are really self-medicating. They usually
have an underlying mental health issue and so when we’re talking about
addiction and substance use, we have to talk about mental health in the same
space. They’re the same thing. Over time, the connection to a substance creates both a structural and a chemical change that creates behavior outside of the
norm and has someone in a very pejorative sense choosing a substance over life. There are medications out there that save people’s lives and yet in media we
don’t see people taking these medications. If you have somebody in your
life who has an opiate addiction, get some Narcan. COREY: Narcan or naloxone puts them
into florid withdrawal but it keeps them from dying and that’s the important part
because I can never get somebody who’s dead well. They are gonna be so many
scenes with Narcan in people’s scripts. It’s gonna be great! On your show, Allison Janney’s character is dealing with addiction herself and has a
daughter dealing with it, so how did you find out about what recovery would look
like and sort of where the challenges were for these characters. GEMMA: A lot of times
when recovery is portrayed, it felt like there was no joy and light, and I
think that that is what we felt was missing. Recovery is not the end of the
story, it is the beginning of the story. COREY: If I could say one thing to writers, I’d
say the biggest one is please stop portraying someone who’s in recovery
from addiction as having a weakness inherently. Treat them like they’ve
overcome cancer because this disease has the same mortality rate. Thinking
about this as writers, as we’re coming up with character descriptions, finding the
right words to use feels really important. If we use a word like “addict” that just like stops us dead, it’s taken all the agency away from that that
character. In a perfect world we don’t call them “addicts” we call them “a person
with addiction.” We need to really think about the language we’re using. If we
cost someone a “drug addict,” that elicits connotations about people being selfish
and manipulative. They’re struggling inside, they’re hurting inside, and that’s why they’re going to drugs, alcohol, other compulsive behaviors, because they’re
trying to help themselves feel better. Depression hurts. It’s not just an
emotional, psychological pain it is physical. I would say the science backs that up a hundred percent because the two chemicals responsible for depression are
also really important chemicals in pain. HOLLY: Our society as a whole has embraced talking more about mental illness in general and substance use disorder, and I
would say you know thank you to television and film actually for opening
up a lot of that discourse. And the great thing is, when we can see those stories
in television and film and we can see people having compassion, that gives our
young kids that model to be like, “Oh, if somebody’s struggling, I reach in and
help.” Writers want to be responsible, they want to sort of reflect reality.
Hollywood Health & Society is a great resource for writers to be able to reach
out and say, “What is the real science behind this? What is the best practice?” GEMMA: We’ve had them send two experts to us and both of those experts helped us so
much to get to the story we really wanted to tell, to tell the honest truth. HOLLY: I have found that the writers have always been really open, they really want
to get things right and we’re just working together to help end suffering
for people everywhere.

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