New campaign aims to save lives by eliminating stigma

THE Vancouver Canucks hockey team and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions are joining together to combat stigma around substance use, so that people can feel safe accessing the treatment and supports they need.

“Stigma around addiction is killing people,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Addiction is often a response to deep pain or trauma, and stigma drives our loved ones to act and live in dark silence. We need to knock down the walls of silence and encourage courageous conversations between friends, family and co-workers struggling with substance use, so they feel supported in seeking treatment and recovery.”

The public awareness campaign discredits false stereotypes by showing that addiction can affect people from all walks of life. It serves as a call to action for all British Columbians to stop seeing addiction as a moral failure and start seeing it as a health issue that deserves compassion and support.

“There are multiple studies showing how stigma associated with drug use drives people to use alone or in settings where people may be unwilling to call 911 for emergency assistance,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, incoming provincial health officer. “In order to encourage people to reach out for help – stigma, guilt and shame must be removed from the equation.”

The provincewide campaign includes television, online and social media, as well as high-visibility public billboards that will be rolled out in phases in the coming months. The Canucks will show their support for the campaign by highlighting the campaign throughout Rogers Arena, including at all home games and other arena events, such as concerts, until June 2018.

“It’s been absolutely devastating to watch this crisis unfold right in our backyard. British Columbians have always been such an important part of my life, and we are losing family members, friends, neighbours and fans in countless preventable tragedies,” said campaign ambassador Kirk McLean, retired Vancouver Canucks goaltender. “We all need to come together to break the cycle of silence that keeps people isolated and unable to reach out for help.”

McLean was asked to act as ambassador because he recognizes the pervasiveness of addiction and believes strongly that British Columbians can come together, break the cycle of silence and raise awareness about substance-use challenges.

By visiting the campaign’s website, people can access life-saving information on how to have courageous conversations with loved ones who may be struggling with substance use, where to go for treatment and recovery services, and how to find harm reduction supports, as well as community-based and culturally appropriate support services.

The provincial government is investing $322 million over the next three years to save lives, end stigma and improve access to services for people struggling with addiction. This campaign is part of government’s commitment to combat the overdose crisis and save lives.

The ministry is working with partners across sectors on a wide range of actions that are spearheaded by the new provincial Overdose Emergency Response Centre. The provincial response centre will closely track emerging trends and risk factors in the overdose crisis, with centralized data monitoring and analysis. From this information – and information on the ground – the centre will work with the regional teams and new community action teams in hard-hit communities to intervene quickly with life-saving responses, early intervention, and proactive treatment and support, including increasing access to life-saving naloxone and medications for treating opioid addiction. New Community Action Teams will be in place early 2018, in communities identified by overdose data as having the most urgent need.

Supervised consumption and overdose-prevention services continue to open. These sites will expand access to drug-checking services and services to proactively identify and support people who are at risk of overdose to enter treatment and recovery.