National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW) 2019



A message from Richard Jock, Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO), FNHA

This week is National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW). This year's theme, Stigma Ends with Me, provides an opportunity for individuals, communities and the health system to reflect on the root causes of substance use and addiction.

As a contributor in the establishment of the NAAW initiative, I have seen it evolve over the years. In the beginning, addictions awareness was promoted extensively through community-based campaigns. Now it has grown to a place of collaborative action—including First Nations communities' health system partners at provincial and national levels. A collaborative approach such as this is critical as we continue to respond to the ongoing opioid crisis.

Having an understanding of the complexities of addiction puts us all in a better position to develop and support efforts to decrease the stigma people who use substances experience when they try to access health services and supports.

NAAW is especially important for individuals and communities that have been affected by historical and intergenerational trauma. Grief, loss and trauma are root causes of addiction. Understanding that addiction can stem from physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual distress can help to dissolve stigma.

We have learned that 'culture is healing' for many First Nations people. It is essential for people who use substances to have access to culture, language and traditions wherever they may be on their healing journeys. ​Unfortunately, stigma can prevent people from accessing these important aspects of healing.  ​

We have heard from BC First Nations communities that mental health and addiction is the number one issue they are facing. We remain positive and hopeful about our relationship with the Province of BC, including our relationship with the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, as we develop new ways to support First Nations people who struggle with addiction.

Cultural safety and trauma-informed care training for health care providers are at the forefront of our efforts, and the FNHA's new Mental Health and Wellness Policy identifies the need and philosophy to develop a range of supports for addictions and substance use in our communities.

I encourage you to follow along this week as the FNHA provides resources to increase awareness about stigma, as well as highlights services for addiction and substance use that BC First Nations clients can access. Even a week's worth of reflection and preparations can have a long-lasting effect.

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