Mental health is a vital aspect of overall health, but roadblocks such as societal stigmas, lack of awareness and misunderstanding treatment options can make it difficult for individuals to get the help they need. National Recovery Month provides the opportunity to promote the message that everyone can benefit from behavioral health services.
The History of National Recovery Month
National Recovery Month was launched in 1989 by the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) and was originally called Treatment Works! Month. Its primary goal was to celebrate the work of addiction specialists who help individuals overcome substance abuse. Nine years later in 1998, the focus expanded to include not only the professionals who treat substance abuse disorders but also those who do the hard work of overcoming addiction. The name was changed to National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month to reflect this shift.
In 2011, the event underwent another change, this time to its modern-day form as National Recovery Month. This change was made to recognize other aspects of behavior health such as eating and drinking habits, addictive behavior patterns and mental illness.
The focus of this month-long event, which takes place every September, is to educate Americans on mental illnesses and addiction disorders while also celebrating the hard work of mental healthcare professionals and those seeking recovery. Increasing public awareness on issues related to behavioral health helps to normalize the conversation and point to the success of professional treatment.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Recovery Month
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) originally launched National Recovery Month to celebrate success stories and encourage Americans to get the help they need. Every year, the SAMHSA selected a theme and created a toolkit that organizations could use for their outreach initiatives. In 2014, for example, the theme was “Speak Up, Reach Out” to encourage individuals to openly discuss mental and substance use disorders and help others obtain help. In 2020, the theme was “Join the Voices of Recovery: Celebrating Connections,” with a focus on honoring the strength and resilience of those living in recovery as well as those seeking treatment.
By 2020, SAMHSA was working with a network of over 300 partnering organizations that helped with event development, creating materials that could be distributed, obtaining funding, marketing and putting together the Recovery Month Toolkit.
A Change in Sponsorship
In June of 2020, SAMHSA announced that it would no longer put together National Recovery Month stakeholders, develop annual themes and toolkits, or manage the event calendar. However, the administration remains an ardent supporter of National Recovery Month, and it continued to host weekly seminars during the event in 2020 to cover topics such as medication-assisted treatment and how communities and employers can support recovery.
In 2021 and going forward, National Recovery Month is being sponsored once again by NAADAC, the organization that launched the earliest annual events.
What Is NAADAC?
NAADAC was originally launched under the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Treatment, Rehabilitation and Prevention Act in the 1970s. It was first called the National Association of Alcoholism Counselors and Trainers, and then in 1974, it became the National Association of Addiction Counselors. In the 1980s, it changed its name to the current National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors. Today, it’s the largest membership organization for healthcare professionals who focus on addiction treatment. It represents more than 100,000 addiction counselors, educators and others in the field in 47 U.S. states, Canada and abroad.
Over the years, the NAADAC has played a significant role in raising awareness of addiction treatment options and supporting mental healthcare professionals. It operates the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCC AP), which offers seven national certifications and endorsements for addiction professionals. It also has multiple membership levels for individuals and organizations, providing access to benefits such as telehealth platforms and professional liability insurance.
In recent years, the NAADAC has promoted awareness on mental health issues and educated lawmakers on how addiction is a disease experienced by people of all demographics and walks of life. The administration has given light to how certain populations are underserved and have limited access to behavioral health services. It has also overseen studies on how the pandemic has impacted the number of drug overdoses and increases in substance use.
Along with starting National Recovery Month, the NAADAC has partnered with SAMHSA in the past for the event. It has hosted free webinars and highlighted state initiatives and professional practices that have been effective in addressing substance abuse.
National Recovery Month 2021
The theme of 2021 National Recovery Month is “Recovery is For Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community.” The focus is to remind people that while everyone’s experience with addiction is unique, no one who’s going through treatment and recovery is alone.
As with past years, 2021 Recovery Month is oriented around educating the public about substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders. It also highlights the effectiveness of treatment and recovery services and showcases stories of successful recoveries.
To reflect the changes in sponsorship, Faces & Voices of Recovery created an updated National Recovery Month website. This site has a calendar of events, banners, logos, flyers and social media tools. It also features the free downloadable 2021 Recovery Month Toolkit. The kit has several sections, including:
- Media Outreach, which has instructions for planning community events and activities and templates to send to media outlets
- Targeted Outreach, which provides information to the public on the benefits of recovery and tips for navigating the process
- Resources, which are available to help cultivate partnerships with local organizations and plan and prepare for events
- Join the Voices for Recovery, a special section that features real-life examples of those who are recovering from mental illnesses or substance addictions
How to Support National Recovery Month
For those who are living with a mental illness or addiction, National Recovery Month is a great time to reach out for help. For those who are already pursuing recovery, this event provides the opportunity to celebrate addiction recovery and help others understand the effectiveness of treatment. Individuals have several ways to get involved with National Recovery Month.
Share Their Experience
Taking a step back and appreciating their hard work isn’t something that everyone feels comfortable doing, but it can be an important part of the recovery process. Individuals pursuing recovery for mental illness or addiction can share their experiences and take pride in what they’ve accomplished. Talking about their journey can be inspiring to others who want to pursue treatment.
Celebrating past milestones can inspire individuals to set new goals and strengthen their resolve for continued health. Setting new goals is important for improved physical and mental health, so individuals in recovery may want to take this time to consider what they hope to celebrate during next year’s National Recovery Month.
Attend a Webinar Series
Attending an online webinar is a great opportunity to learn strategies for recovery, get information on how communities promote addiction treatment and hear about others’ experiences with treatment. Some topics covered in 2021 National Recovery Month include addressing burnout and an overview of the multiple pathways to recovery.
Attend a Community Event
Communities across the country are hosting events to raise behavioral health awareness and celebrate National Recovery Month, including special events with speakers and live entertainment, conferences and exhibitions. Individuals can find out if there’s an event near them by referring to the calendar of events.