Mental Health and Substance Use = Chicken or the Egg?

By: Julia Geigle, M.S.W., LICSW
YSB Chemical Health Program Supervisor, Specialist D834

Mental Health Disorders (MD) and Substance Use Disorders (SUD)…   

  • are real
  • are public health conditions
  • affect anyone: regardless of age, race, IQ, religion, income
  • can often overlap

Unfortunately, there continues to be stigma and misunderstanding about these disorders. May is Mental Health Awareness Month so it is a great time to educate ourselves and work to eliminate the discrimination that exists around it.

When it comes to mental health and substance use issues, for instance, it is quite common for a person to be battling both of these challenges at the same time.

About 80% of adolescents who are abusing substances also show symptoms of mental health disorders, such as Depression or Anxiety.

AND: approximately 80% of adolescents who struggle with a mental health disorder have turned to substance use as a way to manage their emotional pain.

So, what does this tell us?  That youth don’t typically abuse substances, or frequently get intoxicated, because their life is going ‘great.’

At YSB, our Youth-Focused Therapists and School-Based Chemical Health Specialists know that the best way to help someone who is struggling to make healthy choices – is to explore factors that may be contributing to, or hindering, that person’s overall well-being.

Sometimes the mental disorder comes first and leads to substance abuse, and other times, the substance use disorder comes first, leading to emotional and mental health problems.

It’s the ‘Chicken or the Egg’ conundrum.

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National Prevention Week – May 13-19th

National Prevention Week in May

By Julia Geigle, Chemical Health Specialist, MSW, LICSW

With all the best intentions, our society tends to be more reactive than proactive in many areas – including behavioral health which encompasses both mental AND substance use disorders. More funding is dedicated to intervention and treatment than it is to health promotion and prevention. Research has shown us all services along the continuum of care prevention and early intervention to treatment and maintenance are equally important.

To highlight the importance of prevention, May 13-19 marks SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week. This week is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of substance use prevention and positive mental health.

What is prevention?

Prevention focuses on strategies, efforts, and interventions that occur prior to the onset of a mental and/or substance use disorder and which are intended to prevent the occurrence of the disorder or reduce risk for the disorder.

Prevention is also about striving to optimize well-being. Prevention is not just about eliminating a negative behavior; it is also about supporting positive physical, intellectual, psychological and social development – infusing wellness into our community.

How do we do it?

Effective prevention is about identifying and minimizing the factors that increase the risk of developing a mental and/or substance use disorder (risk factors) and building and strengthening the factors that protect us from developing a mental and/or substance use disorder (protective factors).

We know now that prevention works best when we address the constellation of risk and protective factors across all contexts from the individual up to the societal level.


YSB is passionate about prevention and early intervention! One way YSB supports the strengthening of protective factors is by encouraging parents to familiarize themselves with the Search Institute’s 40 Development Assets  and work to build them into their children and family culture. Check out YSB’s other prevention and early-intervention services!

Stick With Hope – Youth Led Mental Health Initiative

Article from MSSWA’s Liz Kruger Hommerding, MSW, LICSW

Stick with Hope is a youth-led initiative to advocate for mental wellness among youth through notes of encouragement. Lee began the initiative in 2017 after seeing youth with mental health issues drop out of school.     

“I started Stick With Hope to advocate for mental wellness among youth. I developed presentation scripts for middle school and elementary schools students that introduce them to depression, anxiety, and mental health stigma.  One way to reduce mental health stigma is for adults and youth to write simple hand-written notes of encouragement,” says Lee.

Read MSSWA Spring Newsletter (Page 19) – and learn how you can help share messages of hope!

Minnesota School Social Workers Association



Top 10 Prom Safety Tips

By: Gina Johnson, B.S., YSB Chemical Health Prevention Specialist

Prom is an exciting time for high schoolers and their parents!  

Keep in mind however, many teens face choices beyond what flowers to buy and which shoes to wear.  To help you and your family prepare for this event – here are some tips on making this night safer and unforgettable.
(Tips adapted from SADD, MADD and The Partnership for a Drug Free America)


#1 Talk to your teen about his or her plans.

  • Start talking now as prom plans are developing. Share in their enthusiasm but help them be practical.
  • Make sure your teen has a plan for before and after the dance. Discuss your rules and expectations.
  • Make sure you know all the details of the plan.

#2 Meet with the parents of your teen’s prom group.

  • Come to an agreement on curfew and pre and post-prom plans.
  • Ensure appropriate parental supervision for pre-and post-prom parties by talking to the host’s parents. Offer to help by bringing food to share, taking party pictures and helping to chaperone.
  • Ensure all teens in the group have the same plans.

#3 Discuss Driving.

  • Know who is driving and who their passengers are.
  • Insist on seat belt use, no illegal substances including alcohol in the car, no driving under the influence and absolutely no riding in a car with a driver under the influence.
  • If taking a limo, insist on a limo service that does not allow alcohol, tobacco or drug use by minors. Communicate directly with the driver about your expectations.

#4 Avoid hotel rooms post-prom.

  • A hotel party cannot be effectively supervised. A parent staying at the same hotel in another room isn’t enough.
  • A teen in a hotel room has no effective means of retreat if he or she feels uncomfortable with the group, the setting or the activities.
  • Hotel parties may include non-high school students who likely have very different agendas.
  • A hotel room setting increases the pressure on teens to have sex, party all night or partake in activities they may regret later.

#5 Discuss your school’s prom rules with your teen.

  • Make sure they understand the consequences for violating them.


#6 Remove or lock up alcohol and prescription drugs in your home.

  • The majority of the time teenagers drink or abuse prescription drugs they get their alcohol or medications from their own home or the homes of friends.
  • Make sure older siblings and other family members and friends know they are not to buy alcohol for your child.


#7 Agree on a curfew; touch base during the evening and be awake to talk to your teen when they get home.


#8 Communicate with your teen specifically about how he/she would handle difficult situations.

  • What should they do if they are offered a ride by an intoxicated driver, being offered alcohol or other drugs?
  • What should they say if they are being pressured to have sex?
  • Be sure to provide parental advice how best to deal with problems that may arise.
  • Keep your cell phone on until your teen has arrived home safely.
  • Have a code word if they want you to come get them out of a situation.


#9 Insist that there are to be no changes made to the prom plans without your approval and make that a firm rule with no exceptions allowed.


#10 Check in with your teen during the evening (remember that they will read a text before they will answer their cell) Have him/her check in with you at designated times, particularly pre and post prom times.


Tips adapted from SADD/MADD and The Partnership for a Drug Free America. For more information, visit,,

Visit YSB’s blog for additional articles on Alcohol and other Chemical Use prevention:

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