WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Dealing with mental illness can be a very difficult journey. When it’s coupled with a substance abuse disorder, it can be overwhelming. That’s the plight of a Monroe County teen whose life has been turned upside down by what’s called “dual diagnosis”.

People dealing with mental illness may turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. Research shows that can actually worsen mental illness symptoms. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, a Barrett Township woman whose son deals with that predicament is making it her mission to spread awareness and support.

He wore number 22 playing high school football for the Pocono Mountain East Cardinals. Safety Miles Deaton excelled on the gridiron as a sophomore in 2016. His mother, Michal Shultz said, “It’s a passion. It really kept him on track. And just over the past year everything kind of slipped away.”

Michal says her son was kicked off the team last season for skipping practices and disruptive behavior. “It got to the point where he really couldn’t control himself anymore.”

Miles was diagnosed as bipolar but that’s not all. It was also determined he was suffering from narcotics abuse: co-occurring conditions known as dual diagnosis. Michal found local integrated care options non-existent so she reached out to the Ohio-based organization “Safe Passages” which seeks to offer treatment rather than incarceration for drug abusers. “They helped me within one day. I started talking to them in the morning. By that afternoon I had the prescreening with my son over the phone with the facility in Texas which is called Recovery Unplugged.”

It’s a one-stop setting where Michal says Miles continues receiving the services he desperately needs in group settings on a daily basis. “He’s dealing with a lot of different people that have similar issues as himself but also with the drug abuse side of it as well.”

It’s estimated nearly 8 million Americans suffer from dual diagnosis. Michal says she and Miles wanted to share their journey to show convenient resources are needed to help conquer this growing crisis. “We need to have schools working with police departments, police departments working with hospitals, you know and creating an outreach center where even for my son for him not to feel alone,” she said.

Michal’s son is expected to continue treatment in Texas for the next couple of months. In the meantime, she started an on-line support group to help other families deal with dual diagnosis.