you're reading...
Mental health

Time to Talk About Addiction

Following Time to Change’s Time To Talk Day, COT’s Professional Affairs Officer—Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, Genevieve Smyth, reflects on the importance of reducing mental health stigma and the issues that we still don’t seem able to talk about.


Photo by Georges Biard

Last week COT took part in Time to Change’s Time to Talk Day which encouraged us all to have a chat about mental health in order to reduce mental health discrimination. Many OTs joined us and a huge number of healthcare professionals and service users on Twitter to discuss tackling mental health stigma using the hashtag #timetotalk.

Occupational therapists in mental health believe that teaching people new skills is of little value if you then place the person into a hostile social environment. The attitudes and beliefs of those around us are incredibly powerful and impact on our beliefs about what we can do and how we spend our time. External stigma becomes internalised and the person experiences a double disabilityfirstly because of the mental illness and secondly because they then feel ashamed and marginalised. This is obviously wrong and is why the Time to Change campaign is so vital for our society to evolve.

But what wasn’t talked about in Time to Talk? The recent tragic death of the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from drug addiction is typical of our inability to talk openly about drug and alcohol problems. Unhelpful attitudes still exist that perpetuate old myths such as “It’s all in their control—they just need to stop taking the stuff, no-one’s forcing them to take it”. The level of people with drug and alcohol problems is under-reported and they are frequently neglected by services and by society. Working with people who had gone through detox, asking them about their work skills, interests or friends was generally met with a resounding blank: the addiction was their whole life, their reason for being and everything they did was associated with this. Trying to rebuild lives away from addiction was like trying to build a brand new person with new roles, routines and friends—a super-human feat.

Addicts need our support not our discrimination if we are to stop these tragic early deaths occurring and help rebuild drug free lives.


13 thoughts on “Time to Talk About Addiction

  1. Reblogged this on Seeing Rabbits.

    Posted by Mel | February 10, 2014, 17:32
  2. Thank you Gen for highlighting this key topic. The apathy about addiction keeps those who are suffering with it marginalized and without the very support they need. Let’s get some more discussion about this topic! OTs, bloggers, etc-please share your thoughts.

    Posted by baotmembershipdevelopment | February 11, 2014, 09:22
  3. As a non-OT (I’m COT’s Web and Social Media Editor) the thing that I find so amazing and inspiring about OT is the focus on the whole person. Society often treats addiction, and mental health in general, as if it were something separate from the person, something they should just “snap out of” and walk away from. In reality, there are a million emotional, physical and environmental reasons why this person is affected in this way – we need to understand and look at all of them to help the person get better. I think OTs are the best placed healthcare professionals to offer real support and hope for change, and it’s important to create more awareness of the work that you do so that more people can access OT services and get the help they need.

    Posted by Allegra Holbrook | February 11, 2014, 09:55
  4. I am a student OT and I am keen to explore further the area of addiction therapy, there is a lack of emphasis post detox regarding the rebuilding of lives and I agree that OT’s are really well skilled and suited to ‘plugging’ this gap. ThankYou for raising it.

    Posted by Charlotte Tranter | February 11, 2014, 11:14
    • Hello Charlotte , I am also an OT student and interested in this topic. I am in the process of doing a literature review on the role of OT in recovery from substance misuse ..get in touch if you would like to discuss evidence or practice .

      Posted by Sam Baldry | February 24, 2014, 15:26
      • Sam. I have just read this post (though realise it is from some time ago. I am an OT working in inpatient detox and would be really interested in your literature review on the role of OT in recovery – as evidence in this field can be hard to pin down. If you are happy to share, I would be extremely appreciative. Sarah

        Posted by Sarah Muckett | November 17, 2015, 09:32
      • Hi Sam. I realise this comment was some time ago, but here goes: I am an OT working in inpatinet detox. I would be really keen to read your literature rview on the role of OT in recovery. The evidence base in this area can be hard to pin down. If you are happy to share I would be very appreciative!

        Posted by Sarah Muckett | November 17, 2015, 09:41
  5. Theres a FutureLearn course starting next week on Drugs and Addiction. Would be great to see some OTs on there sharing our views too.


    Posted by kirstyes | February 11, 2014, 12:51
  6. I have been an OT for 10 years. I trained later in life (in my 30’s) and unfortunately I am currently signed off of work due to complex PTSD due to recent situations and very early traumatic events in my own life. This is a subject that I have recently developed a keen interest in and for which I do not believe that there is currently sufficient Occupational Therapy treatment for. Addiction doesn’t happen on its own. it doesn’t appear out of nowhere. Similarly eating disorders do not happen on their own. Again self harm does not happen on its own. All of these things occur in response to environmental presses. So yes, we need to talk about addiction, but we must link it to why it happens, to establish the link to mental illness, especially to the effects of anxiety which will always underpin these conditions . We most definitely need to talk about the link between all of these things and all the different forms of trauma that people might unfortunately experience in their lives. We do people a disservice by not doing so.

    Posted by Debi Simpson | February 11, 2014, 20:30
  7. I am curious to know the COT position on addiction ? there is a position statement from the COT in Wales but nothing for England or the UK as a whole ? I am surprised but happy to see this article on addiction as personally I feel it is an area of practice with great scope for OT yet is hugely under-represented by our profession.

    Posted by Sam Baldry | February 24, 2014, 15:29
  8. I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both educative
    and engaging, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head.

    The problem is something which too few people are speaking intelligently about.
    Now i’m very happy I found this in my search for something concerning this.

    Posted by dusenbery slitter | June 14, 2014, 02:02
  9. I read through your article and found it to be amazing. Myths like this tend to be so damaging because they create negative effects in those trying to recover. I’m really happy that this article was posted as I’m doing research on the many myths surrounding rehab and addiction.

    Should anyone else be interested to see how this would help others here’s the page I looked at https://www.pbinstitute.com/rehab-myths/

    I hope this can assist with someone if they are struggling with coming to terms with addiction and rehab.

    Posted by Tameka | October 20, 2017, 14:03

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 266 other followers

Follow @BAOTCOT on Twitter

%d bloggers like this: