This year’s National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW) theme is “Change Begins with Me,” which aims to present Canadians with ways they can reassess the way we think about substance use disorders and people who use drugs. At Sandstone, we want to take this one step further by calling on Canadians to recognize the challenges associated with substance use, addiction and mental health as a community responsibility requiring community action.
Our campaign, titled “It’s Not Personal,” intends to inspire citizens, government, and private business to engage in the conversation and take small tangible actions with big impact to surround Canadians with support systems in every aspect of life.
“Addiction and mental health struggles are often viewed as a personal problem,.” says Ian Rabb of Sandstone treatment centre, part of the national Edgewood Health Network. “It’s a convenient narrative that absolves us from taking community ownership to address the addictions crisis we’re in. We can’t rely on someone else or solely our governments to provide all the answers – each and every one of us should be asking how we can help to build healthy communities.”
The “It’s Not Personal” social media awareness campaign provides Canadians with simple calls to action, from asking your employer about the mental health or addictions support provided through your company benefits program, to sharing community resources with people in your online and offline communities. It will also highlight positive stories of those who are in recovery and focused on improving their quality of life.
“Often the messaging and headlines around addiction focus on the worst case scenarios, the overdoses, and the gory details of people’s struggles,” explains Rabb. “This adds to the hopelessness of conquering this crisis, when in fact there are many positive stories of people who are living fulfilled lives in long term recovery. We want to get away from the stigmatizing imagery that is so often portrayed and show that recovery is achievable and should be accessible to everyone.”
“We also need to acknowledge that the majority of Canadians experiencing substance use disorder don’t fit the portrayal we see in mainstream media of a street-level junkie,” he adds. “They often have a home, a family, and a career. These patients suffer silently while the popular message is that they’re fine, because they don’t look like the picture we see on the news. This message is killing people and preventing them from seeking help. We hope this campaign helps more people to see the signs and know there are supports in place to help.”