ESTHER BUSH

This month, the “Take Charge of Your Health Today” page focuses on addiction and seeking treatment. Erricka Hager, health advocate at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, and Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, speak on this topic.

EB: Good afternoon, Erricka. I’m so pleased that we’re finally addressing the issue of addiction and the importance of seeking treatment. Addiction is such a heavy topic. I’m sure all of us know at least one person struggling with addiction, whether it is drugs, alcohol or gambling. The list could go on. Whatever the addiction, I continue to support the need for seeking treatment. I fear that our communities are traumatized by the daily media coverage that increases the stigma about seeking help.

EH: I couldn’t agree more, Ms. Bush. When people experience backlash or are met with judgment about seeking treatment, it can leave them feeling hopeless. Even beyond that, they begin to fade away from their support systems because of the constant shame they feel. Black families are shaming their loved ones away from treatment.

EB: Absolutely. That shame is creating a culture of fear, confusion and guilt. Black families are confused about why their loved ones aren’t seeking treatment or are simply just quitting. Some are even ashamed to admit that they have a family member who is battling addiction. This culture of shame and guilt is further continuing the cycle of addiction. This cycle is harmful to the mental health of the affected families, as well as to the community as a whole. Dr. Douiahy discusses the importance of recognizing addiction as a mental health disorder. It can be treated. It’s important that we talk about how the Black community can reverse the stigma and encourage those we care about to seek treatment. Admittedly, this is hard because people don’t like discussing mental health in relation to addiction. But the only way we can create a cycle of change is by having open and honest conversations about addiction. That will make us stronger as individuals and healthier as a community.

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