(City of Delta/submitted photo)

(City of Delta/submitted photo)

Delta residents asked to share their stories and help ‘End the Stigma’ around opioid crisis

‘Share Your Story’ a joint project by city, DPD, school district, Delta Fire, Fraser Health and TFN

The following article was submitted by the City of Delta.

The City of Delta is encouraging community members to share their stories and help end the stigma surrounding substance use.

On Feb. 9, the BC Coroners Service released a new report documenting the impacts of the opioid crisis. The number of opioid-related deaths in B.C. in 2021 climbed to 2,224, an increase of 26 per cent since 2020. That’s an average of 6.1 deaths each day from illicit drug overdose last year — many of whom died in their homes, and many died alone.

Delta residents have also been affected by the overdose crisis. In the first 11 months of 2021, paramedics attended close to 180 suspected overdoses in Delta that led to 19 opioid-related deaths. That’s 19 families directly related to a death, and many more friends and co-workers who were also impacted by the opioid crisis.

One factor that contributes to the number of deaths is the stigma and the shame that some feel about substance use. People use substances for a myriad of reasons, often as a way of coping with stress and trauma. Recovery from problematic substance use and trauma can be an incredibly complicated and lengthy process, potentially taking years and requiring extensive supports.

Recognizing the issues surrounding the stigma of the opioid crisis, the City of Delta partnered with the Tsawwassen First Nation, Delta Police Department, the Delta School District, Fraser Health Authority and Delta Fire Department to work on a collective approach to reduce stigma around substance use in Delta and connect residents to community supports and resources.

In March of 2021, the End the Stigma campaign was launched. Through the use of bus shelter ads depicting people who might be affected by substance use, the campaign aimed to portray how this health crisis has impacted people from all walks of life.

READ MORE: City, police, school district partner on campaign to ‘End the Stigma’ in Delta (May 17, 2021)

Over the last year, in collaboration with community partners, the city updated its website with information on resources for the community, and also connected with residents through Let’s Talk Delta, the city’s online engagement portal. On Aug. 31, 2021, the city launched the “Share Your Story” initiative to ask Deltan’s how they are coping with the opioid health crisis and inviting them to share their stories to help end the stigma.

A local Delta resident, Finn, shared her story about her brother’s addiction and how it impacted their family. Her brother is one of the individuals captured in the statistics from the BC Coroners Service who lost his life to addiction.

“It all started so innocently, just a young boy experimenting with substances unknowing of the immense strength that they held,” Finn wrote.

She said she “lived with a changed version of my brother. I lived with the version of my brother who was misunderstood, with a brain so overpowering it never gave him time to rest. This version of him resorted to the use of drugs to let his brain finally take the break it needed. (…) The reality [is] that his addiction was not just some stupid decision he made one day, that it was truly an illness killing my brother.”

The full story provides a glimpse into the journey of one Delta resident as she reflects on her feelings and the challenges in supporting those we love. Her story can be read online at letstalk.delta.ca/endthestigma.

The City of Delta — in partnership with TFN, DPD, school district, Fraser Health and Delta Fire — is taking steps to try and make a difference for people like Finn, and to remind those who use substances that they are not alone and that their lives and safety matters.

The city is offering free counselling sessions for Delta residents struggling with substance use and their loved ones. To book a session with a registered counsellor, please call 778-522-5160. Together we can do so much more.

Also, as part of the ongoing End the Stigma campaign, a community forum is being planned for April 2022 to discuss the experiences of local people affected by substances and to provide access to supports that exist in the community.

As a community, we must acknowledge the existence of — and take ownership of — substance use and addiction in our community. Removing the stigma around substance use and addiction is the first step. By stopping the judgment and offering supports we can begin to reduce the annual statistics coming out of the BC Coroners Service.

Education, awareness, and transparency can help end the stigma. There is power in opening up and telling your story. The power of an individual story goes far beyond reports, facts, and data.

We are inviting you to use the power of storytelling to share your experiences with substance use, harm reduction supports, treatments and recovery. Sharing your story can be a step forward in your own personal healing, and it can also empower others who are affected by substance use.

If you are comfortable sharing your story, you can submit it to letstalk.delta.ca/endthestigma. Together we can help end the stigma around substance use and take action against B.C.’s opioid crisis.



editor@northdeltareporter.com

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