National Addictions Awareness Week 2022: The Importance of a Caring Community



A message from Richard Jock, FNHA CEO; and Dr. Nel Wieman, FNHA Deputy Chief Medical Officer

For this year's National Addictions Awareness Week, we want to spotlight the potentially life-saving importance of caring about, empathizing with, and helping people who are struggling with addictions – as well as these people's families. 

Only by collaborating as a caring community can we collectively make change happen. When it comes to addiction, which some addiction experts describe as “the opposite of connection," this is especially true. People experiencing problems with substance use (and their families, who are also affected) need people who care about them and accept them all as they are and where they're at, without shaming or blaming them. Acceptance and compassion are vital to the healing journey. Eliminating stigma is a critical part of the process. ​Stigmatizing leads people to hide their use and use alone, which puts them at a high risk for an overdose.

Fortunately, one of our many strengths as First Nations people is that we understand the importance of community, and we know that communities can come in all shapes and sizes – people who are away from their family or home community can be brought into a community made up of a group of friends, a support group, a friendship centre, a healing circle, or whatever is most comfortable for them. If you are concerned about someone who is using substances, reach out and invite them to your community's activities. Or, if you feel disconnected from a community, consider going to one of the many friendship centres across BC.

For medical help, you can contact the FNHA's Virtual Substance Use and Psychiatry Service, which provides culturally safe care and access to specialists in addictions medicine and psychiatry for BC First Nations people and their family members (even if non-Indigenous). Also see the links below this message with contact information about treatment centres and programs/services for addiction. At the FNHA, we believe in and promote holistic healing of mind, body, heart and soul, and advocate using two-eyed seeing (combining traditional First Nations healing practices with western medical methods) to offer First Nations people necessary medical care while prioritizing land-based healing, culture, traditional wellness, medicines, and ceremony. We believe that community-driven and culturally based solutions, as well as on-the-land treatment, are the way forward, and we are working with First Nations communities to expand their own prevention, harm-reduction, treatment, and recovery services in First Nations communities and for those living in urban areas.

The FNHA supports a harm-reduction approach to substance use that is compassionate, practical, and non-judgemental. We know that addiction is a health issue, not a moral issue, and that it is the result of profound physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual distress. We understand that the intergenerational and ongoing trauma, grief, loss, and the effects of ongoing racism experienced by most, if not all, First Nations people are the deeply rooted causes of harmful substance use, addiction, and mental illness.

If you have lost someone in this way, we extend our deepest condolences. You might want to honour / commemorate him or her on our online memorial.

If you have a loved one who is struggling with substance-use disorder, please know that there is hope and that there are ways you can help them. To learn more about what you can do to be part of the solution, we encourage you to r​eview the resources below. The bottom line is that caring communities are very important and can save lives.

Resources to help you learn about addiction so you can be part of the solution in your community:

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