This month is National Recovery Month, an annual recognition and celebration of recovery. 2020 is a year unlike any other, and people in recovery need support now more than ever. The global pandemic has created newfound challenges for those trying to manage their mental health or live alcohol and drug-free.
Now in its 31st year, National Recovery Month has adapted to fit the current conditions. This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Celebrating Connections,” a nod to the importance of connection for everyone in recovery. Though keeping a physical distance is still recommended in most areas, here is how you can celebrate National Recovery Month this year.
What is National Recovery Month?
National Recovery Month is a national event held each year to raise awareness for mental health and substance abuse. The event aims to educate Americans on the benefits of treatment and other services. By encouraging a greater understanding of these conditions, National Recovery Month hopes to inspire those still struggling with addiction and mental illness.
The Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) founded the event in 1989. It acted as the main sponsor for the first 30 years of National Recovery Month. This year, SAMHSA retired from hosting and passed the privilege onto Faces & Voices of Recovery.
Faces & Voices of Recovery, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., took on responsibility for the annual event. They are a global advocacy movement dedicated to eliminating the stigma associated with addiction and recovery. Faces & Voices uses National Recovery Month to raise awareness and celebrate the achievements of those in recovery.
Why We Need National Recovery Month
National Recovery Month is more important now than ever before. In 2019, 20.4 million people in the United States ages 12 and older struggled with alcohol or substance use disorder. Additionally, 13.1 million reported having a serious mental illness in the same year. The rates of substance abuse and mental health at the start of 2020 have also increased, causing alarm.
An estimated 88,000 people die of an alcohol-related cause in the United States every year. This makes alcohol-related deaths the third-leading cause of preventable death in the country. The number of deaths due to drug overdose is also shocking, with drugs claiming the lives of 70,980 people in 2019.
This year has posed a new challenge for those in recovery. The stay-at-home orders and social distancing due to COVID-19 isolates individuals from their recovery communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report in August that revealed the epidemic’s alarming effects:
- 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with substance abuse or mental health
- 31% reported symptoms of anxiety or depression
- 26% noticed trauma or stressor-related disorder symptoms
- 13% started using substances or increased their substance use
- 11% seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days
The need for the positive impacts and events of National Recovery Month is clear.
How You Can Participate in National Recovery Month
As many events go virtual due to COVID-19, National Recovery Month is no different. The virtual nature of this year’s events means they’re accessible to more people nationwide. Here are a few ways to participate in National Recovery Month.
Sign Up for a Virtual 5k
5k walks and runs are a great way to get moving and raise awareness for addiction and mental health. Participate in a virtual 5k like Step Up For Recovery put on by PEER Services. Sign up to raise funds, and bring attention to the effects of mental illness and substance use in your community.
Visit a Virtual Art Gallery
Voices of Recovery, a San Mateo County support group, is hosting a month-long virtual art gallery. They gathered and featured artwork from those in recovery, along with those who support the recovery movement. The Virtual Recovery Happens Art Show is hosted on the Voices of Recovery website through the end of September.
Join the Conversation
Dozens of conversations surrounding National Recovery Month are happening on Twitter with the hashtags like #RecoveryMonth and #CelebratingConnections. Join in a live Twitter chat to discuss the ways recovery has changed your life. You can also offer support to someone seeking connection on their path to recovery from substance use and mental illness.