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New Seaside group holds promise
Dual Diagnosis Anonymous offers peer support for mental illness and addictions
If we're honest, we acknowledge them: every family has its cherished son, daughter, sister, brother, uncle, cousin battling the intertwined personal disasters of mental illness and substance addiction.

With luck, help and constant struggle, our loved one wins the daily battle to live with dignity and success despite these handicaps. Far too frequently, help and fortitude come too seldom or not all. Good human beings can become litter beneath freeway underpasses, in homeless shelters and jails. In many other cases, such stereotypes fail to encapsulate the day-to-day existence of people who may blend in but still suffer in silence with the pain and stigma of debilitating brain diseases.

There's no one single answer to this complex tragedy, but Dual Diagnosis Anonymous is a valuable start toward a response. It is good that a DDA chapter has come to Seaside, as we reported last week. It is one of 82 chapters in the state. DDA is paid for by Oregon taxpayers; citizens may also donate directly through ddaoforegon.com

As our story explained, DDA was based on the Alcoholics Anonymous peer-support, faith-based 12-step program, in which addiction sufferers accept responsibility for their activities and conditions. But it goes further, adding five steps, in which the participants admit to having mental illness in addition to their addictions and accept responsibility for taking their medications.

Obtaining a lasting buy-in from a mentally ill addict to the concept of responsibility is an enormous initial obstacle, as anyone with experience of this situation knows. And even assuming the sufferer is willing to stick with a program, the vagaries of America's health-care system mean that professional treatment and ongoing management of recovery usually aren't adequately covered by insurance, if at all. Is it really any wonder that so many with mental illnesses end up self-medicating with alcohol and illicit drugs?

This makes peer support groups like DDA all the more essential, serving as a sort of life raft into which previously floundering victims can clamber. For some, this will be a path to use toward sustained stability, while others will at least find an island of respite and no-nonsense sympathy.

America and most other nations do a lousy job of standing up for these vulnerable, often-victimized, inconvenient and occasionally troublesome citizens. We need to do better. Welcoming and helping DDA is a small part of the answer.

 

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