We Can Feel Helpless Or Hopeful – By Doreen Guma


June 12, 2017

The other day a friend posted an article that the Huffington Post printed — That Heroin is now the leading cause of death in Americans under 50 years old.  The article reported that 144 people will die from accidental overdose today.  When you add that to the statistics regarding suicide: 121 suicides are completed a day, including 22 of our veterans, and also the fact that, for every one suicide completed, 25 are attempted, which equates to 3,025 / day = 3,146 suicides completed or attempted EVERY day in the US.


For perspective, there are 321.4 million people in the United States.


Regarding drugs, this is not new news — In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared the “war on drugs” – public enemy #1.  Since then, our nation has spent over $1 trillion fighting this war.  We are certainly losing.  In 2009 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem.  Through discussions with our elected officials and research, it is shown that alcohol or drug rehabilitation may only be effective 10 – 30% of the time.  I believe that, consistently trying to get rid of the supply without eliminating demand is never going to stop the war and that this is a continued exercise of futility.


We hear a lot about accidental overdose – I thought it fair to include why people may start using drugs in the first place.  Per Foundation for a Drug Free World, “people take drugs because they want to change something about their lives.  Here are some of the reasons young people have given for taking drugs:  To fit in; To escape or relax; To relieve boredom; To seem grown up; To rebel; To experiment.  They think drugs are a solution. But eventually, the drugs become the problem.”  http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/drugs/why-do-people-take-drugs.html


It is evident that there are 2 categories of people — the ones who absolutely need rehab and recovery and the ones who may be having a negative life experience that haven’t gotten to this point where they will utilize the drugs or attempt suicide — I did write this article, What Do Our People Need: A Sense of Community and Belonging, a few months ago, which discussed the need for emotional connection of our communities:  http://timetoplay.com/2016/12/30/what-do-our-people-need-a-sense-of-community-and-belonging.



There is validity behind the concept of enjoy life communities, a visible, positive and proactive approach.  I continue to find work by others that supports the model, including the most recent by Barbara Fredrickson, PhD who has been researching emotions over 25 years and wrote, “…by creating chains of events that carry positive meaning for others, positive emotions can trigger upward spirals that transform communities into more cohesive, moral and harmonious social organizations.”


One more statistic — as per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population and Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3 and affects more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.


It breaks my heart that so many people live their lives in despair.


I believe community support will help in many ways, including helping those who feel depressed or alone or isolated.  We can continue to fight “wars” or we can begin to provide PROACTIVE life and coping skills to use in our lives and our communities which will potentially circumvent the development of a negative life experience and the utilization of self-destructive behaviors.


Again, please again keep in mind that we do have two different groups of people — the ones who need help reactively, and the ones who can proactively be given preventive life and coping skills. I am not saying that we should not help those who need recovery, but we just have to find a better way to help them.


I have many years working in the field of quality improvement.  As I continue to learn and research, it becomes more than evident to me that we are going about helping our people achieve quality of life the wrong way. We are “chasing our tail” instead of providing proactive skills and tools where our people may choose a better option to handling life situations, no matter how horrible they may be, versus utilizing self-destructive options.  It is now evident to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that helping people learn what they need to enjoy life, helping people feel a sense of community, will no-doubtedly help to stop the cycle we are currently experiencing.



The approach to find opportunities to love life, to help people with problem solving and resources so they don’t need to use drugs to self-medicate, may be a better solution.  Just imagine if we bring people together, if we establish pride in our communities, if we focus on the strengths, the positive and the possibilities of our people and our communities instead of the negativity and despair.  Just imagine if we provide opportunities for people to feel purposeful and fulfilled, which will give them reasons to not do drugs.  Just imagine if we bring together people to share their talents – all people in our communities including our veterans, our seniors, and our youth – so no one feels alone.



The benefits of a different approach – the focus on the goal of life enjoyment – the creation of Enjoy Life Communities – the focus on what’s right vs. what’s wrong, may be a better option.  The goals to decrease social isolation and create a purposeful life additionally will, in turn, increase longevity and the quality of life of our people.


It is researched and proven.


I am an enjoy life ambassador and an advocate that we all have the ability to enjoy life.  I focus on the excitement of what is possible.