Diseases of Despair

So many of us are struggling and suffering. Even before the Pandemic many of us were struggling. I recently read a report that said drug and alcohol misuse were up and so were suicides and suicidal behavior. Researchers call these conditions “diseases of despair.” The interesting thing to note with these diseases is that they are not strictly medical.

Many of us were initially thrilled to be working from home and have our lives slow down, but after a while people began to miss the day to day contact. More and more people began to get laid off, wages didn’t rise with inflation, community ties were cut, churches were closed, and people were forced to spend more time with each other; all of these factors can be linked to diseases of despair.

People have turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with feeling disconnected from family and friends, to deal with other forms of loneliness, health conditions, and mental health concerns. A pass time that many people have enjoyed has turned into a crutch in our society. I have always felt that if I needed to drink or smoke or do any drugs to escape from my reality than I needed to change my reality. I do not have the answers that will help people cope with diseases of despair but I do know it can’t be found at the bottom of a bottle or with any drug.

Benjamin Miller said, “Diseases of despair are driven by a multitude of factors, some of which our health care system can address, some they can’t. But our systems are ill-prepared for documenting, following-up and treating diseases of despair.” This is one of the many reasons I believe it is important to have a community around you to support you and be there for you while you are struggling. Hold on to relationships where you are valued, loved, and supported.

I want to encourage you to find healthy ways to cope. Alcohol and drugs are never and will never be effective coping mechanisms. Get outside, enjoy nature, exercise, eat healthy, and focus on the things you can control. In the state of mind I have been in over the past few years I knew that alcohol wouldn’t help and drugs never do. Find ways to address the underlying issues. Some of us may have no idea what those underlying issues are, or we may be in denial about what they are and that is why I encourage you to seek professional help.

Sources: US News, Diseases of Despair’ Skyrocket in America, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2020-11-10/diseases-of-despair-skyrocket-in-america. Accessed 24 October 2020.

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