From November 25 – Dec 1, CMHA Ontario will join with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) and addiction prevention, treatment and recovery organizations across the country to mark National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW).
This years’ theme for National Addictions Awareness Week is Stigma Ends with Me, highlighting how individuals can take steps to end the stigma associated with substance use and addiction and its impact on the well-being of people touched by this health issue.
To help, CMHA is sharing three steps every person can take to address stigma:
1) Use person-first language which focuses on the individual, not on the substance use. Language used is an important factor in reducing stigma and breaking down negative stereotypes associated with substance use disorders. By using non-stigmatizing language, those who are experiencing challenges may experience fewer barriers to accessing supports. CMHA Ontario has developed a one page primer on talking about substance use to help.
2) Share your experience. Research shows that when individuals hear positive personal stories of hope and recovery, it breaks down barriers about mental health problems and mental illnesses and can change attitudes and behaviours. If you are comfortable, sharing your story of substance use and the challenges of recovery can help educate others and overcome stigma.
3) Take time to self-reflect. Our life experiences and societal influences form our sense of identity and how we think about other identities. Self-reflection is the process of deliberately paying attention to our experiences and behaviours, understanding how our meanings of the world are formed, and noticing the role these play in decision-making. Experiencing this process of reflection and learning one’s own biases, privilege, and roles, can be a challenging practice, and create feelings of stress and discomfort; but it is crucial in reducing stigma towards oneself and others.
NAAW is an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about substance misuse, prevention, and treatment. In Canada, it is estimated that approximately 21 per cent of the population (roughly six million people) will meet the criteria for addiction in their lifetime.