Thousands of families across British Columbia have suffered the loss of a loved one to overdose, and thousands more struggle to support a child or loved one living with a substance use disorder.
Two new handbooks written in collaboration with people who have first-hand experience with substance use and loss aim to help British Columbian families manage the day-to-day challenges of having a child or loved one with a substance use disorder.
“These new resources – written with input from peers, for peers – will play an important role in helping people and families who have lost a loved one or are struggling to support someone living with addiction,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “The daily heartache and stress can often be overwhelming for people living with addiction, and their families. These resources are part of B.C.’s toolbox to ensure that every person receives the support they need, when and where they need it most.”
Coping Kit: Dealing with Addiction in Your Family, developed by From Grief to Action, a volunteer-based, not-for-profit association that provides a support network for families and friends affected by drug use, was updated in collaboration with the Canadian Mental Health Association – BC Division, BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU), and Pivot Legal Society.
The kit focuses on questions, issues, and practical problems faced by parents, guardians, and loved ones of people who use drugs. It provides valuable information about substances and how to minimize risks, how to communicate with loved ones, dealing with the criminal justice system, and accessing treatment and recovery services.
“There’s no road map for supporting a child or loved one with a substance use disorder,” says Judy Robertson, a board member of From Grief to Action whose stepson lives with opioid use disorder. “However, we can look to those with years of hard-earned experience navigating the system to share their insights to make this a little less hard not only for families, but for those living with addiction that are far too often isolated, marginalized, and left to manage their addiction on their own.”
A grief handbook, Gone Too Soon: Navigating grief and loss as a result of substance use, was developed by the BCCSU in collaboration with the BC Bereavement Helpline and the Affected Persons Liaison with the BC Coroners Service. The handbook helps people identify and manage emotions and responses they may experience with their grief, and provides advice for self-care and practical considerations in the wake of loss. The handbook was created with the guidance of Leslie McBain and Jennifer Woodside, who both lost children to drug-related harms.
“Nothing can undo the devastation and pain of losing a loved one, but the message we want to share with these resources is: you are not alone,” says Leslie McBain, co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm and family engagement lead at the BCCSU. “These are things I wish I had known as I tried to navigate the health system with my son, and they’re the things I wish I’d know after I lost him to an overdose — not only in the days immediately following his death, but in the months and years after.”
To help promote the new resources, the BCCSU is partnering with Moms Stop the Harm, BC Bereavement Helpline, regional health authorities, and other local partner agencies to host a series of forums in seven communities across the province.
“Stronger Together: Navigating the Personal Impacts of Substance Use” will comprise a series of dialogues and learning sessions for families and allies impacted by substance use. The objective of the dialogue sessions is to provide a safe, structured space for families to share their experiences, identify systemic barriers, and explore systemic solutions to improve conditions for families and their loved ones. The learning sessions will focus on capacity-building for individuals and professionals interested in hosting support groups for families with loved ones using drugs, as well as families who have been bereaved.
The first series will take place in Victoria From November 28 to December 1, 2018. The second series with take place in Surrey from February 13 to 16, 2019, with future sessions planned for Vancouver Coastal, Northern, and Interior health regions.
Event registration and details:
- Stronger Together: Navigating the Personal Impacts of Substance Use
Victoria, BC – November 28 to December 1
British Columbia Centre on Substance Use
Canadian Mental Health Association – BC Division
Bev Gutray c/o Lorna Allen