The First Nations Health Authority's (FNHA) latest harm reduction campaign features the voices of Indigenous people who have been affected by toxic drug use and overdose. This campaign focuses on harm reduction, a strategy that prioritizes saving lives by offering supports that meet an individual's needs, wherever they are on their healing journey.
Lisa from the Leq'á:mel First Nation says that harm reduction sites and services are important for keeping people safer while using substances.
“I think it's one of the most important things … to provide safe places for them to use and kits to make sure that they always have clean supplies, and somebody standing by in case they do overdose," she says.
Lessening the impact of stigma associated with drug use and building a strong support structure for those at risk is a key focus of harm reduction. When people aren't afraid to reach out to the resources that are available to them, it empowers them to be safer.
Lisa also acknowledges the vital role of the family and friends of people who use substances.
“Set boundaries and stick to them, but be ready to be there when they're ready to move on from that phase of their life."
Ken, who comes from the Yale First Nation, says friends and family helped him in overcoming his experience with drug use. He felt grateful for the help they offered him, while also appreciating how important it was to have the space to understand and decide his own identity and path forward.
“Having the support of your community to be able to really create that space is huge," he says.
In this way, an individual's support network gives them a foundation that they can build upon. It can be a launching point where they begin – or it can provide the support to navigate through any challenges they may face.
Healing is an ongoing journey, and it is better to walk with others by your side. No matter where you are on your path, remember that using alone is dangerous. Using with someone else is safer, even during COVID-19.
To learn more about Lisa and Ken's stories, where to find harm reduction sites and services, and other resources, visit www.fnha.ca/harmreduction