Guest Viewpoints

In 2021 We’re Making Lemonade at Summit Oaks Hospital

January 31, 2021
By Hannah Blank

“If life hands you lemons, make lemonade! Words to live by, especially when you kept in mind that the only way to make them into lemonade was to squeeze [them].”

– Stephen King, End of Watch

With the end of one more successful year of caring for thousands of children, adolescents, adults, and their families at Summit Oaks Hospital in Summit, NJ our entire team and collaborative network of mental health providers are grimly reminded of the rapid growth of mental illness, substance use, and addiction that stretches across our nation. With every new piece of troubling data that floods our news sources, as well as the surging number of individuals entering our front doors for treatment, we remain challenged with the perpetual obstacles of adapting and learning new and innovative techniques and treatment modalities of how we can do more for our communities in overcoming this epidemic while combating a pandemic simultaneously. 

The war on drugs is not new, yet the growing need for a resolution has elicited much reflection among counselors and social workers like myself. With much reflection, I began to think about the interesting combination of fresh starts, lemons, and commitment. We have been fighting an uphill battle as we continue to dodge each lemon thrown at us from a number of directions. 2020 brought a forceful tornado of destruction and with each cyclic turn, a bright citrus fruit was thrown our way. The sour taste that still lingers is one that may never go away, however we can create something more from this experience, much like lemonade. 

Let’s start making lemonade together!

With true and genuine empathy, I know how difficult it can be to stay committed to a short-term goal. The decision to seek mental health treatment, enter a substance use program, and further maintain wellness and/or sobriety is a life-long commitment. All of these require support, daily dedication, and of course commitment in dodging these bright, yellow, and sour disappointments coming at us from numerous directions, especially when the odds are not in our favor … or flavor.

The CDC (2020) recently shared data that reported a significant increase in overdose deaths over a 12-month period ending in May 2020 which has been the “highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded” in this amount of time. In fact, the rise of synthetic opioid substance (for example, manufactured fentanyl) use has accounted for a whopping 38.4% increase from this 12-month data collection.

To clarify and reinforce how troubling this data is, this is an 18% increase compared to the prior year.  This spike and rapid acceleration in overdoses in our nation is alarming, disturbing, and very, very concerning.  There have been over 81,000 more human beings who have lost their lives to drug overdoses. There are now over 81,000 more families who have an everlasting emptiness because of their loved one’s absence.

Our lists of economic and social issues are growing by the minute, and so is our collection of damaging and rotten lemons. How can we make lemonade out of this, you ask? Perhaps the answer is just one word: commitment. Our commitment to ourselves, to our loved ones, our communities … the list goes on.  Staying committed to a goal or task may seem like the hardest and most challenging obstacle you can face, because change can be one of the toughest things we can do for ourselves. 

Change is hard, but by committing to yourself, you can do anything you set your mind to.

 Committing to something that will genuinely benefit our well-being is about finding that growing flame within us, though it may just be a flicker right now, and knowing that we already have the ability of making it to grow into a vibrant fire. This fire within us is an unstoppable force committed to pursuing our goals. If we commit to ourselves, to our sobriety, our mental health, our community, our wellness, etc., anything is possible.

You can do anything you set your mind to.

As therapists, social workers, and mental health professionals we devote our time to educating those we serve on ways to improve one’s overall quality of life. For many, like myself, this dedication to others is our passion and/or life’s work and we will always continue to empower others through advocacy and education. We are genuinely committed to making our communities a better and safer place for those who are disadvantaged and every single human being regardless of the color of their skin, background, gender, identity, or religion. We simply cannot do this alone. We want to help you find that flame within you, empower you to gain control of your life, become the best version of yourself, and support you in achieving your goals.

Find your flame!

Our team at Summit Oaks Hospital has 81,000 more reasons today than we did yesterday to continue working toward our mission of improving the lives of those we serve. We are committed to confronting this drug epidemic, but we need your help too. This is a battle against the most lemons we’ve ever seen and we remain devoted to making lemonade in 2021.

Hannah Blank, MA, MSW, LSW, is Community Relations Representative at Summit Oaks Hospital, which is licensed by the state of New Jersey, and is fully accredited by The Joint Commission. For more information on the services and treatment programs available, please visit www.summitoakshospital.com.


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