People with co-occurring mental health and substance use conditions have been widely described as “the expectation, not the exception”.
People with co-occurring mental health and substance use experience greater impact on their social and emotional wellbeing. They are at greater risk of experiencing increased stigma, more frequent hospitalisations, physical health impacts and relationship difficulties.
Further issues include:
• Work instability and unemployment
• housing difficulties and /or homelessness
• greater suicide risk, violence and exploitation and contact with the criminal justice system.
Despite this, they are often advised by mental health services that before receiving any mental health care and support, they first need to address their substance use. They are then told by Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD) services that they first need to address their mental health concerns.
Substance use, mental health and trauma researcher, Catherine Foley has stated that, ‘Despite the benefits of integrated care, such as reduced symptom severity and fewer acute-care admissions for people who have co-occurring disorders, most MH and AoD services operate independently of each other… Reports estimate that less than 12% of people with co-occurring disorders receive treatment for both conditions.’
That more services are provided to ensure a holistic care approach to co-occurring mental health and substance use conditions. This requires the provision of complexity capable, integrated service systems to provide effective models of care. Part of this integration should include joint professional development opportunities involving both the sectors and workforces.