Recovery is a gift that everyone deserves

People living with behavioral health issues can and do get better. Knowing that recovery is possible can help reduce the devastation of suicide

By M. Christine Macbeth, ACSW, LICSW

Our community is filled with heroes. They live on your street or work with you. Their children play with yours. In fact, you or a member of your own family may be a hero, as well. All of you  sought help for behavioral health issues and are on the road to recovery and a better life. Trust me when I say working toward recovery may be the hardest thing that anyone ever does. At the Brien Center, we consider their efforts nothing short of heroic.

Because of the stigma attached to mental illness and addiction, people doing the very hard work involved with recovery often do so quietly, without the support of their extended families and friends.  We don’t like to tell anyone that our teenager is suffering from severe anxiety. We fear it’s a reflection on us. Similarly, we hesitate to tell friends that we are addicted to narcotics or alcohol. The stigma and resulting shame seem too much to bear.

Would we do the same if the diagnosis was cancer, diabetes or heart disease? Of course not. They would recover with the love and good wishes of everyone they knew. For many people living in the Berkshires with behavioral health illnesses, recovery is a long and lonely journey. That’s why National Recovery Month means so much to all of us at the Brien Center, and to  those we serve and their loved ones. During the month of September, we are motivated by the fact that people can and do recover and go on to live happy and productive lives. The opportunity for recovery belongs to everyone.

And that’s the theme for this year: “Recovery is for everyone: every person, every family, every community.” At the Brien Center, our job is to create the kind of inclusive and evidence-based programs and services that offer the promise of recovery to anyone who seeks our care. Our community’s job is to help end the stigma surrounding behavioral health issues, and to support our loved ones and friends in recovery with love and compassion.

People in recovery have taken a critical step to seek help. We know that suicide can sometimes be the result of an untreated behavioral health issue. As a community and as caring individuals, we must do whatever we can to raise awareness of recovery, so that fewer and fewer families have to bear the sorrow of a loved one lost to suicide.

On Saturday, October 3, beginning at 10 am at The Common in Pittsfield, we will once again join together to raise awareness of suicide during the annual Walk Out Of Darkness community event. The gathering is meant for everyone – people who have had suicidal thoughts; loved ones affected by suicide, and anyone who wants to find out more information about how they can provide support and help.

Like mental illness and addiction, suicidal thoughts can affect anyone – regardless of their background. It is long past time to end the stigma that prevents people from seeking help. Recovery is a gift that everyone deserves.

Christine Macbeth, ACSW, LICSW, is President and CEO of the Brien Center