In recent years our community, much like all communities throughout the United States, has seen a sharp increase in the number of people that are suffering from drug and alcohol abuse. Opioid and heroin addiction, as well as the abuse of other drugs, continues to be a serious problem that is not only destroying the lives of those that are addicted, it is making the lives of their family members and friends a living nightmare. We have also seen a significant increase locally in the number of people suffering from mental illness. It is not uncommon to see individuals suffer from both at the same time as they often go hand in hand. I have personally interacted with many people in our community that suffer from both and have learned that they often will not seek help due to the negative stigmas that are all too often attached to both.
In many cases, family members will not seek the appropriate help for their loved ones due to these same stigmas. We as a community must continue to support law enforcement efforts to take drugs off of our streets and promote strategies that promote prevention and awareness. But just as important, we must stomp out stigma and support those that need help.
Those suffering from addiction and mental illness are not making a conscious choice to suffer. To the contrary, they want to be well; however, they often will not seek help due to the negative stigmas that way too often come with these problems. We must make sure that they and their family members can seek help without being looked down on and while knowing that we as a community want to help them get well. I know many individuals that have found a path to recovery from addiction and others that are working to treat mental health conditions. They are some of the strongest people I know and great contributors to our community. I support them and I am proud to call many my friends. If you are struggling, I support you as well. Let’s stomp out stigma and support those that need our help.
Brian Schenck is the Cayuga County sheriff.