SUBSTANCE abuse and its link to mental health were the focusses of an information evening and training course in Naracoorte last week. The public was invited to come and learn more about the ins and outs of dealing with a person suffering from drug and alcohol related depression in an information forum last Wednesday night. The forum featured guest speaker George Patriki, a former drug user who started reaching out to people with substance abuse issues soon after he himself exited the “drug culture” in 1983. Since 1992, he has developed this commitment into a full-time vocation and career as a dual diagnosis consultant on the Gold Coast and throughout Australia. The seminar paid particular attention to the relationship between drug and alcohol abuse and depression. His message was simple: to treat the mind and body as one when dealing with issues of mental well-being. This relatively new approach, formulated over the last 20 years of psychotherapy research, is called dual diagnosis. “We want to take a holistic approach,” Mr Patriki said.”The mind and the body are not separate entities, when something goes wrong with the body it can have a negative impact on the mind also, and vice versa.” Regular exercise, a varied and balanced diet and a good amount of sunshine were prescribed for the body.
For the mind, it is vital to have stable relationships with friends or family when battling depression and substance abuse. Naracoorte Lucindale Mayor Erika Vickery, who was MC, highlighted the importance of such events to the community. “It builds on our community capacity to help and connect with each other, which leads to a better sense of community well-being,” she said. “George gave us some explanations and understandings of the issues and problems that cause addictions, and also some resources on how to help people who are suffering.” Mr Patriki highlighted the importance of simply talking when attempting to help someone through drug addiction. “Most people don’t realise that you don’t need to have all the answers. Most of the time it is simply enough to listen, and to let that person talk through their issues.” He also mentioned the need for positive relationships in a person’s life. “Addictions begin and end in relationships. Positive relationships will have a positive effect on a person, while negative ones will drag that person back down.” While in Naracoorte, Mr Patriki also held a two-day training course on dual diagnosis, targeted at those who have a basic education in substance abuse and mental health.
This article first appeared Naracoorte Herald, 25 February 2015.