September is National Recovery Month

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Peace Valley Recovery is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Our mission is to provide patient-centered care that focuses on healing and recovery from addiction. This blog provides information, news, and uplifting content to help people in their recovery journey.

Authored by Elliott Redwine, | Medically Reviewed by Peace Valley Recovery Editorial Staff,
Last Updated: March 5, 2023

It’s September, which means it’s National Recovery Month! Each September, organizations across the United States come together to recognize the month-long campaign.

It’s a time to celebrate the accomplishments of those in recovery and to spread awareness about the important role that effective treatment plays in helping achieve it.

Rates of substance and alcohol abuse, as well as mental illness, are at an all-time high in the U.S. Alarming numbers of adolescents and adults struggle with the harmful effects of poor mental health.

When you’re trapped in the thick of these kinds of conditions, it often feels impossible to overcome them. The idea that things could ever turn around feels like false hope.

But National Recovery Month serves as proof that recovery is possible for anyone. Recovery has transformed the lives of millions of people.

Highlighting the successes of people in recovery is a vital part of showing that another way of life is available to those who want it. It’s also a reminder that mental and behavioral health are important aspects of overall wellbeing, necessary for a happy, fulfilling life.

How did National Recovery Month come to be, and why is it still so important today? What are some ways people recognize National Recovery Month, and what are some ways for you to support those in your life affected by mental illness and addiction?

History of National Recovery Month

While the celebration of those in recovery is widespread today, this wasn’t always the case. Open discussions about addiction and mental health were not as common in past decades as they are today. People were much less candid about their experiences and instead kept their struggles to themselves.

In 1989, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) saw the need to increase the public’s awareness of the reality of addiction. The organization started a campaign called “Treatment Works! Month” that was dedicated to acknowledging substance abuse professionals doing what was, at the time, a mostly thankless job.

SAMHSA saw incredible success with its campaign during its first decade. In 1998, they decided to expand the awareness month to also acknowledge people in alcohol and drug addiction recovery. The name changed to “National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month”, encompassing the campaign’s newer, broader focus.

Finally, in 2011, SAMHSA widened the lens again by including individuals living with and recovering from mental illness. It adopted its current name, “National Recovery Month”, a shift to make space for the ever-evolving landscape and understanding of mental health and recovery.

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Today, National Recovery Month is in its 32nd year and continuing its important work. This year’s theme is “Recovery is For Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community.” It’s a nod to the fact that addiction and mental illness do not discriminate, that anyone can suffer from these conditions. That reminder is more important today than ever before.

The Ongoing Need for National Recovery Month

The need for National Recovery Month has only risen since its inception in 1989. Rates of substance abuse and mental illness are higher today than they were 30 years ago. Drug-involved overdose deaths have been trending upwards since the turn of the century. More than 700,000 people have lost their lives due to drug overdose since 2000.

While a slight dip in drug overdose deaths in 2018 gave people a sense of hope for continued decline, the exponential rise in 2020 was a disheartening shock. Overdose rates rose more than 30% between 2019 and 2020. There’s still a need for celebrating those in recovery and supporting those who have yet to achieve it.

The number of people affected by substance use disorder and mental illness is alarming, too. Millions of people throughout the United States still need help and support to overcome their substance abuse or symptoms. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, out of the people ages 12 and older in the U.S.:

  • 19.3 million have a substance use disorder
  • 51.5 million have any mental illness
  • 9.5 million have both a substance use disorder and any mental illness
  • 13.1 million have a serious mental illness
  • 3.6 have both a substance use disorder and a serious mental illness
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Chances are you probably know at least one person living with mental illness, a substance use disorder, or both. How do you know whether they need help?