Discussion: Mental Health and Substance Abuse as Illness


Imagine these two scenarios:

First, a man stumbles out of a bar, speaking loudly, trying to gain the attention of passersby by putting his arm around them to start a conversation, or remarking on the dress of another passerby.

Second, a man stands outside the public library asking for money. He seems to be talking to himself.

Now, replay each scenario in your mind and change the details of the subject (e.g., white, black, male, female, varied clothing). How would others nearby react? Would the police be called—or not called—in any of these variations? Would the individual be ignored, tolerated, or asked to leave?

In this Discussion, you extend this type of thinking by examining perceptions related to mental health and substance use as an illness and how that may affect policy and treatment.

Then Post a response to the following:

  • To what degree does the perception of substance use as a crime versus an illness affect policy designed to reduce substance use?
  • To what degree do perceptions of mental health and substance abuse affect treatment services?
  • How do perceptions of vulnerable and disenfranchised populations affect the choice to treat or incarcerate individuals with mental health or substance use issues? 

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