A trace of hope for fatal overdose awareness

Kamloops locals look to spark conversation around drug overdose and help reduce the stigma

Sherry Robinson and fellow volunteers showing their support for International Overdose Awareness Day. (Kamloops Overdose Awareness Day)

Back to school is a time when many students are buying their textbooks, meeting new friends and going to those infamous back to school parties. In recent years, fentanyl has made its way into recreational drugs that many students might expose themselves to. In recent years the crisis is something that students, teenagers and members of the public need to become aware of and have access to the essential resources that they may need.

Sherry Robinson, one of the head coordinators for the Kamloops International Overdose Awareness Day, says that spreading awareness, reducing the stigma around drug use and mental health, along with making people aware of the resources available to them is essential for combating fatal drug overdoses.

“Young adults and teens are higher risk takers and when they are out partying and have had a few drinks, they are more likely to make impulsive choices,” Robinson said.

Robinson became involved in the Kamloops International Overdose Awareness Day to help spread this message, as well as for personal reasons.

“I lost my son Tyler Robinson to a heroin overdose that was tainted with fentanyl and that was in January of 2016. After he overdosed and I was grieving with that, I became aware of this thing called International Overdose Awareness Day and last year no one else seemed to be organizing it so I took it upon myself to get the ball rolling,” Robinson said.

The event took place on Aug. 31 in Riverside Park and was a grassroots event that was brought forward by people who are passionate about bringing more awareness to the community.

“It’s our second annual here in Kamloops. L:ast year we were at the farmers market with a small booth raising awareness locally and this year we have some funding that was offered to us through a local coalition called Addiction Matters Kamloops. They received it through a research centre down in Vancouver. So, we are hosting a larger event this year at Riverside Park with the help of that funding,” Robinson said.

The day worked to be both fulfilling and healing, and was really set up to be a place to start a conversation, not only about the ever-growing opioid crisis, but for people in the community to learn and talk openly with others about drug overdose.

“It’s just the time to talk about prevention, how to prevent overdose, how to prevent substance use challenges and encourage a recovery-ready community,” Robinson said. “When we come out and support and stay connected with people we love or our neighbours and friends, they are more likely to recover successfully,” Robinson said.

Robinson added that this event was aimed at people within the Kamloops community, however Overdose Awareness Day is an international event and many cities partake in spreading awareness and reducing the stigma.

“It’s worldwide, it’s international now and it started way back in 2001 in Australia because of the opioid crisis that’s been surrounding throughout the past couple of years it has been spreading and growing throughout communities in North America. That’s why we adopted the colour purple as a signature colour [for overdose awareness],” Robinson said.

Robinson hopes that the event can create a ripple effect in the community and get people to be aware and not ashamed to look for help when they need it.