MEET AFRICA’S DRUG ABUSE & MENTAL HEALTH AMBASSADOR

INTRODUCING

African Teen Mental Health Ambassador
Iziegbe Odigie

The African Teen Mental Health Ambassador, is committed to representing TEENNATION #STREETDADA – promoting our causes and advocating on our behalf. She embodies our values; credibility, trustworthiness and authority

10KTeenagers

Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

500Reps

Offering 10,000 teenagers alternatives to drugs and crime

54Countries

Serve as viable alternative to drug, abuse and associated high-risk lifestyles.

About @IzzyOdigie

Come and work with me to change the narrative on Drug Abuse and Mental Health.

When you have both a substance abuse problem and a mental health issue such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety, it is called a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Dealing with substance abuse, alcoholism, or drug addiction is never easy, and it’s even more difficult when you’re also struggling with mental health problems. But there is hope. There are plenty of treatments and steps you can take to help you on the road to recovery. With the right support, self-help, and treatment, you can overcome a co-occurring disorder, reclaim your sense of self, and get your life back on track.

What is the link between substance abuse and mental health?
In co-occurring disorders, both the mental health issue and the drug or alcohol addiction have their own unique symptoms that may get in the way of your ability to function at work or school, maintain a stable home life, handle life’s difficulties, and relate to others. To make the situation more complicated, the co-occurring disorders also affect each other. When a mental health problem goes untreated, the substance abuse problem usually gets worse. And when alcohol or drug abuse increases, mental health problems usually increase too. But you’re not alone. Co-occurring substance abuse problems and mental health issues are more common than many people realize.

  • Roughly 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse.
  • 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
  • Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29 percent abuse either alcohol or drugs.

While substance abuse problems and mental health issues don’t get better when they’re ignored—in fact, they are likely to get much worse—it’s important to know that you don’t have to feel this way. There are things you can do to conquer your demons, repair your relationships, and start enjoying life again.

What comes first: Substance abuse or the mental health problem?

Substance abuse and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety are closely linked, and while some substance abuse can cause prolonged psychotic reactions, one does not directly cause the other. However:

Alcohol and drugs are often used to self-medicate the symptoms of mental health problems. People often abuse alcohol or drugs to ease the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental disorder, to cope with difficult emotions, or to temporarily change their mood. Unfortunately, abusing substances causes side effects and in the long run often worsens the symptoms they initially helped to relieve.

Alcohol and drug abuse can increase the underlying risk for mental disorders. Mental disorders are caused 

by a complex interplay of genetics, the environment, and other outside factors. If you are at risk for a mental disorder, abusing alcohol or illegal or prescription drugs may push you over the edge. There is some evidence, for example, that certain abusers of marijuana have an increased risk of psychosis while those who abuse opioid painkillers are at greater risk for depression.

Alcohol and drug abuse can make symptoms of a mental health problem worse. Substance abuse may sharply increase symptoms of mental illness or even trigger new symptoms. Abuse of alcohol or drugs can also interact with medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, and mood stabilizers, making them less effective at managing symptoms.

Do I have a substance abuse and co-occurring mental health problem?

It can be difficult to diagnose a substance abuse problem and a co-occurring mental health disorder. It takes time to tease out what might be a mental disorder and what might be a drug or alcohol problem. The signs and symptoms also vary depending upon both the mental health problem and the type of drug being abused. For example, the signs of depression and marijuana abuse could look very different from the signs of schizophrenia and alcohol abuse. However, there are some general warning signs that you may have a co-occurring disorder:

  • Do you use alcohol or drugs to cope with unpleasant memories or feelings, to control pain or the intensity of your moods, to face situations that frighten you, or to stay focused on tasks?
  • Have you noticed a relationship between your substance use and your mental health? For example, do you get depressed when you drink?
  • Has someone in your family grappled with either a mental disorder or alcohol or drug abuse?
  • Do you feel depressed or anxious even when you’re sober?
  • Do you have unresolved trauma or a history of abuse?
  • Have you previously been treated for either your addiction or your mental health problem? Did the substance abuse treatment fail because of complications from your mental health issue or vice versa?

Dual diagnosis and denial

Complicating a dual diagnosis is denial. Denial is common in substance abuse. It’s often hard to admit how dependent you are on alcohol or drugs or how much they affect your life. Denial frequently occurs in mental disorders as well. The symptoms of depression or anxiety can be frightening, so you may ignore them and hope they go away. Or you may be ashamed or afraid of being viewed as weak if you admit you have a problem. But substance abuse and mental health issues can happen to any of us. And admitting you have a problem and seeking help is the first step on the road to recovery.

Signs and symptoms of substance abuse
If you’re wondering whether you have a substance abuse problem, the following questions may help. The more “yes” answers, the more likely your drinking or drug use is a problem.

Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking or drug use?
Have you tried to cut back, but couldn’t?
Do you ever lie about how much or how often you drink or use drugs?
Are you going through prescription medication at a faster-than-expected rate?
Have your friends or family members expressed concern about your alcohol or drug use?
Do you ever feel bad, guilty, or ashamed about your drinking or drug use?
On more than one occasion, have you done or said something while drunk or high that you later regretted?
Have you ever blacked out from drinking or drug use?
Has your alcohol or drug use caused problems in your relationships?
Has your alcohol or drug use gotten you into trouble at work or with the law?
Signs and symptoms of common co-occurring disorders
The mental health problems that most commonly co-occur with substance abuse are depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.

Common signs and symptoms of depression
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
Loss of interest in daily activities
Inability to experience pleasure
Appetite or weight changes
Sleep changes
Loss of energy
Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Concentration problems
Anger, physical pain, and reckless behavior (especially in men)
Common signs and symptoms of anxiety
Excessive tension and worry
Feeling restless or jumpy
Irritability or feeling “on edge”
Racing heart or shortness of breath
Nausea, trembling, or dizziness
Muscle tension, headaches
Trouble concentrating
Insomnia
Common sign and symptoms of mania in bipolar disorder
Feelings of euphoria or extreme irritability
Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs
Decreased need for sleep
Increased energy
Rapid speech and racing thoughts
Impaired judgment and impulsivity
Hyperactivity
Anger or rage
Other mental health problems that commonly co-occur with substance abuse include Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Signs and symptoms of substance abuse
If you’re wondering whether you have a substance abuse problem, the following questions may help. The more “yes” answers, the more likely your drinking or drug use is a problem.

Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking or drug use?
Have you tried to cut back, but couldn’t?
Do you ever lie about how much or how often you drink or use drugs?
Are you going through prescription medication at a faster-than-expected rate?
Have your friends or family members expressed concern about your alcohol or drug use?
Do you ever feel bad, guilty, or ashamed about your drinking or drug use?
On more than one occasion, have you done or said something while drunk or high that you later regretted?
Have you ever blacked out from drinking or drug use?
Has your alcohol or drug use caused problems in your relationships?
Has your alcohol or drug use gotten you into trouble at work or with the law?
Signs and symptoms of common co-occurring disorders
The mental health problems that most commonly co-occur with substance abuse are depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.

Common signs and symptoms of depression
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
Loss of interest in daily activities
Inability to experience pleasure
Appetite or weight changes
Sleep changes
Loss of energy
Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Concentration problems
Anger, physical pain, and reckless behavior (especially in men)
Common signs and symptoms of anxiety
Excessive tension and worry
Feeling restless or jumpy
Irritability or feeling “on edge”
Racing heart or shortness of breath
Nausea, trembling, or dizziness
Muscle tension, headaches
Trouble concentrating
Insomnia
Common sign and symptoms of mania in bipolar disorder
Feelings of euphoria or extreme irritability
Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs
Decreased need for sleep
Increased energy
Rapid speech and racing thoughts
Impaired judgment and impulsivity
Hyperactivity
Anger or rage
Other mental health problems that commonly co-occur with substance abuse include Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Students struggle with drug abuse issues for many reasons. Seeking inclusion and release from social anxiety are significant contributors as teens develop a sense of adult identity. They also face pressures to exert control over decision making and independence. And sadly, alcohol and drug consumption often becomes part of this exploration.

I have found a helpful approach when it comes to this population:

Encourage students to explore identity, confidence, and validation by discovering their strengths and practicing those gifts in social situations. This allows for alignment and bonding, and it bolsters self-worth since it involves others of like mind and interest. This also offers a sense of accomplishment, thereby fulfilling the need to exert, or try on, adulthood.

Drug abuse prevention has become as common a school lesson as a math or history class. But for many students—who often see drugs glamorized in pop culture, on social media, and even in their own social circles—reading educational pamphlets or watching a sensationalized depiction of the dangers might not be enough to deter them. They need to hear real stories, from real people.

Luckily, many of these drug-use prevention ambassadors live in every community, providing an invaluable interactive resource for the classroom.

Help gather and share information by working both independently, and with selected organisations and groups. You will have an interest in mental health, either as a service user or perhaps a carer of someone who is currently using mental health services. You should be willing to share your experiences and opinions, but you will also be capable of listening to, and valuing, the views and experiences of other people.

Fundamentally, we require your input to help co-produce the new mental health strategy for young people in Africa, which will mean:

Attending meetings (possibly 3 or 4 with the 12 month period). 
Sharing your own experiences and opinions and collecting those of others, by networking with service users or support groups
Responding to a monthly task. This will probably take the form of a question, which you can respond to via email, by post or telephone.
Actively promoting the work of TEENNATION, in particular the Feedback Centre and Information Service.
Adhering to TEENNATION Ambassador policies and procedures.

It is a chance for you to have an input into the creation of the new mental health strategy and an opportunity to meet with the people who make decisions about the care you may receive.

You will be offered our Ambassador Training Package, which includes modules on engaging with the public and local communities, the power of voice and lived experience, and understanding commissioning, as well as a range of other training courses.

Plus you will be part of our wider Ambassador network, invited to attend our events and have the opportunity to be involved in other projects in the future.

If you would like to apply for this role, please complete the application form

Successful applicants will have a face-to-face interview at a convenient location. Please feel free to give us a call or email streetdada@teennationafrica.org for an informal chat about the role.

  • Our policy work influences government so that people with mental health problems can get support and respect. Residential Drug & Mental Health Treatment Center for Adolescents.

What we’re fighting for – Getting the right therapy at the right time is crucial – it can help people to better manage their condition and, in many cases, recover fully. Talking therapies should be made available to everyone within 28 days of referral, and you should be offered a choice of therapy.

We want:

  • A full choice of evidence-based psychological therapies made available to all
  • A commitment to equality between mental and physical health
  • Increased access to psychological therapies for all
  • More research and an improved evidence base for psychological therapies.

Talking Therapies good practice

We’re campaigning for a wider choice of talking therapies and calling for therapies to be available when we need them, wherever we live. These good practice examples from our local Minds show how talking therapy services can effectively support people, and what good looks like.

Performances....

Dance Is Therapy - Dance Is Soul.

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Registered for Teen General Assembly Nairobi, 2019?

    Never has there been such weighty responsibility on the shoulders of young people. Never has there been the influence in the hands of young people like the influence they carry now. But for Africa to reap the dividends she has longed for, it is up to our generation to make sure that influence is channelled correctly and directed towards relevant issues that affect not only ourselves but generations after us. This can only be achieved if we come together as young people and begin to address the challenges before us as a continent.

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