Special Report: Wellness Conference - Mental Health and Substance Abuse/Use Issues

About 200 people attended the Men’s Health and Wellness Conference, held from July 18 to July 19, 2015. One presenter, Richard Mayora, commented that he had never attended a more diverse conference of gay/bi men. While the conference did appear racially diverse, a conference, based on a binary concept of gender (men), may fail to accommodate transgender people and issues. Still, most people would consider achieving racial diversity as a major step towards full diversity. This article summarizes the mental health and substance abuse issues presented at the conference.

Men access medical or psychological care less often than women do. When men do, they enter the medical or psychological care systems with more advanced diseases, or more acute mental health problems. And some men wait too long. They enter the morgue or jail instead.

Richard Mayora (LCSW) reported on mental health issues. He discussed minority stress, suicide, the differences between an active sex life and sex addiction, and emergency resources available.

Minority stress results from stigma, discrimination, harassment, and internalized self-hate. While minority stress affects all minorities, many minorities rely on family support to buffer some minority stress. For LGBT people, however, family hostility may replace family support.

Suicide constitutes a major mental health problem for men. Men kill themselves about four times as often as women do. Guns, men’s preferred method for suicide, drive this higher suicide rate.

An active sex life forms one part of a life, but a sex addiction takes over that life. According to Mayora, “sex addicts tend to organize their world around sex, in the same way that cocaine addicts organize theirs around cocaine.”

Resources do exist. Hospital emergency rooms can deal with an acute mental health crisis. Broward County has several hot lines: The Seth Line (954-578-5640), the suicide hot line (1-800-273-8255), 211 Broward (211 and 954-537-0211), and Henderson mobile crisis and walk in (954-463-0911). Only some of these lines have a counselor available 24/7.

Sargent Ozzy Tianga (Broward Sheriff’s Office) reported on synthetic drugs. According to Tianga, as soon as the government criminalizes one drug, chemists start producing a new synthetic drug to take its place. The new drug will differ enough to be legal. While they may be legal, they can pose more danger that the criminalized drugs do.

Chemists design some of the new synthetic drugs to resemble marijuana (K2, Spice). They design others to resemble amphetamines, methamphetamine, and ecstasy (Flakka, Molly). Flakka and Molly can produce paranoia, as well as bizarre aggressive behavior.

Doug Nelson reported on substance abuse. According to Nelson, addiction does not depend on how much or how often someone takes a drug. It depends on the consequences of that drug use.

Drug dependence develops in stages. In Stage I, people experiment. In Stage II, people structure their substance use (“only on weekends”). In Stage III, tolerance for the drug increases. People lose control of the Stage II structures, and the drug preoccupies the person. Personality changes may occur. In Stage IV, physical health declines and one’s life begins to fall apart.  

People with mental health issues frequently “self-medicate” those issues with psychoactive substances. These substances can aggravate those underlying issues. Addictions and acute mental health problems occur, when either the drug use or the mental health condition interferes with life’s goals and responsibilities.

 

 


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