Health Department campaign stresses importance of reducing stigma in our community

Whitby, Ontario – Durham Region Health Department, in partnership with the Durham Region Opioid Task Force, is promoting a local anti-stigma campaign entitled, “People Who Use Drugs are Real People. Get Informed. Get Involved. Get Help.”, to help increase the importance of addressing the damaging effects that stigma can have for members of our community.

“The opioid crisis continues to have a great impact on communities across Durham region,” said Megan Green, a public health nurse with the Health Department. “It’s important for us to come together as a community to support our residents, neighbors, friends, and family members who may be struggling with substance use disorders. Most of us know someone who is struggling or has struggled with substances. People with substance use disorders are real people deserving of our care and compassion.”

The campaign and accompanying video series focuses on sharing the realities of opioid and substance use disorders and works to fight the stigma often experienced by those who are struggling with substance use disorders. Stigma involves judging or stereotyping someone based on their life circumstances and can be a key reason why people don’t seek help.

“There are many things we can all do to help reduce stigma”, Ms. Green explained. “We can start by educating ourselves about substance use disorders, reflecting on our own biases, and speaking up when we see someone being treated or spoken to in a disrespectful manner. Together we can stop stigma.”

The Health Department indicates that September is an ideal time to promote these important messages as Recovery Day events are often held across Canada during this month. Recovery Day initiatives aim to raise awareness, support those in recovery and to challenge stigma. Mrs. Green continued, “recovery is possible. We can all play a role in supporting our residents in recovery and those who are still struggling.”

This public awareness campaign is part of a comprehensive plan to address the opioid crisis locally and involves several other strategies being undertaken by the Health Department and the Durham Region Opioid Task Force.

Creative material for this campaign was adapted from the Stop Overdose BC campaign, launched by the British Columbia Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions in 2018. The Ministry has graciously shared its material with Durham Region Health Department.

To learn more about the anti-stigma campaign, substance use disorders, opioids and what you can do to help stop stigma, visit durham.ca/opioids.

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For more information, please contact the Health Department.

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