September is National Recovery Month - a time to celebrate the fact that people struggling with mental illness or substance abuse can recover and lead healthy and rewarding lives. Recovery starts with recognizing the signs of potential mental illness or substance use, such as changes in behavior. These will vary by age but can include changes in school performance, excessive worry or anxiety, changes in sleep habits, feelings of sadness, hopelessness or withdrawal, or a growing inability to cope with daily problems. If substance abuse is involved, there may be physical signs as well, such as bloodshot eyes, weight loss, slurred speech or a general deterioration of physical appearance. Here in Essex County, FAMILYConnections is a community-based non-profit agency delivering counseling and skills building services to help youth and adults overcome mental health and substance abuse issues. As we see over and over again with our consumers, one of the key factors in recovery is the role of family and friends: The better the support system, the greater the person's chances of long-term recovery.If there is a disorder, family and peers can offer emotional support, reassurance and companionship to encourage positive change. They can also connect their loved one or friend to the resources and support services available to help with recovery.If you are concerned about a loved one or would like more information on available services, please call FAMILYConnections at 973-675-3817, or visit our website at www.familyconnectionsnj.org. Additional resources are available at www.samhsa.gov or the National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP or 1-800-487-4889).While the road to recovery can be difficult; help is available and treatment works. Especially when it is supported by the care and encouragement of family and friends.