As the opioid crisis worsens amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Addiction Matters Kamloops is firing up a new campaign around reducing stigma that it hopes will help people find it easier to reach out for help.
The campaign encourages people to “take the pledge” and commit to changing the language they use to talk about substance use.
Jessica Mensinger of Addiction Matters Kamloops said substance-use disorders are more highly stigmatized than other conditions, noting stigma often means people don’t feel comfortable reaching out for help.
“One thing we can do as a community is to make efforts to stop using language that is stigmatizing,” she said.
There are four parts to the pledge: To not use words or labels that are stigmatizing, to encourage others to use non-stigmatizing language, to use language that is compassionate and respectful and to think of the person as a person, not define them by their illness.
A website that allows people to affirm their pledge to Addiction Matters Kamloops is available at addictionmatters.ca/takethepledge. Selfie cards are also available so people can share their pledge via social media.
With overdose death numbers on the rise in 2020, Mensinger said it’s particularly important to reduce barriers to treatment — and that includes reducing the stigma around substance use.
“Whether or not you feel like you’re personally impacted by substance abuse, this is something that you can make a difference in,” she said.
Mensinger — who is mental health and substance use practice lead with Interior Health — also noted that while Addiction Matters Kamloops is a local coalition, the pledge can be made by anyone, anywhere, and she encourages people to spread their own commitment to the pledge far and wide.
And word is spreading — Mensinger has already heard from someone in Alberta who had received word of the pledge and wanted to know how to get their hands on a selfie card.
“We’re all connected in this issue,” she said.
The campaign started on July 6 and there has already been a strong response, with the website showing 342 people having already taken the pledge.
Mensinger also asks anyone who has ideas for future campaigns to contact AMK through their website.
Addiction Matters Kamloops coalition is made up of various community groups, organizations and individuals working in the field of substance use who are who are committed to increasing compassion and awareness and ending the stigma associated with substance use.