CU students help battle drug abuse and mental illnesses

BOULDER, Colo. -- They are topics that can be difficult to discuss: Mental illness and drug abuse.

But the sometimes taboo topics were front and center during a discussion at the University of Colorado.

The problem is so big, students were being asked to help come up with ways to battle the opioid crisis in the workplace.

Companies are hoping the students can help them come up with a campaign to help battle drug and mental issues among  co-workers.

The idea is to help keep their workplaces safe where the illegal use of drugs and mental problems have become a major problem,.

It’s estimated 40 percent of people who suffer from mental illness are also abusing drugs.

“In the mental health field substance abuse, substance misuse is recognized as part and parcel with mental health," National Mental Health Innovation Center spokeswoman Lauren Baker said.

Students believe they can help.

“Addiction is something that many many people suffer from and there’s just as many solutions that they may not have thought of," freshman Forrest Vargas said.

One company took questions from students about how its employee assistance program works and how it handles illegal drug abuse and mental issues among workers.

Many questions were asked about how to report drug abuse in the workplace and how workers can get help.

Instructors believe classes and discussions such as these are helpful.

“By the time they get out there, they are going to be able to have the hard skills that they need to be effective managers," Leeds School of Business Instructor Cory Cunningham said.

Some businesses will consider using the students' ideas in the workplace.

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