photos: Storyteller David Napio told a story about surviving residential school and how participating in the SALOME clinical trial and Crosstown Clinic Community changed his life. Photo by Kayla Isomura.

Confronting stigma, changing hearts

Megaphone News: Megaphone’s new storytelling and overdose prevention series closes with impact

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In Megaphone’s fall storytelling and overdose prevention series “How to Save a Life: Front Line Stories,” we held storytelling and overdose prevention events in six Vancouver neighbourhoods for six weeks. Members of the Downtown Eastside community shared their experiences with drug use, their insights on the overdose crisis currently sweeping B.C., and showed audiences how to reverse an opioid overdose using naloxone.

Nick_Storyteller.pngThe events, held on weeknights in October and November, were powerful reminders of the importance of lifting up the voices and human experiences of individuals most directly impacted by a record-breaking overdose epidemic that can be difficult to comprehend when we simply look at the numbers.

Illicit drug overdoses are on track to kill over 1,500 British Columbians this year. As of the time of this writing in early November, Vancouver has already exceeded the total number of illicit drug overdose deaths for all of 2016, a year that already broke every previous year of record-keeping.

In a moment at the end of Megaphone vendor and “How to Save a Life” storyteller Spike’s story, he asks the audience to join him in remembering people who died of overdoses by saying the names of loved ones they’ve lost. Spike starts by naming his friend Bobby. Then, the room fills slowly with the sound of so many names. Jilly Bean. Mikey. Mel. Marnie. Ryan. Tracey. Mary. The list continues. “That’s a hell of a lot of people, huh?” Spike says. “Thank you for sharing. Thanks for listening.”

Deep loss underscores the need for continued public conversations like these. And despite the sadness at the heart of these stories, people like Spike and his peers are working hard to create a better world. The “How to Save a Life” storytellers and overdose prevention trainers are caring, engaged community members working in overdose prevention sites, with drug user advocacy groups, and in grassroots organizations at the front lines of B.C.’s overdose crisis.

They took a chance on Megaphone and the Overdose Prevention Society by agreeing to participate in a series of events in which they courageously shared what’s in their hearts with new audiences across the city. I wish to thank them all for their generosity of spirit in sharing so bravely of themselves with hundreds of people across Vancouver through these events.

This is a conversation we are keen to continue in Megaphone through our advocacy work, and if possible, through continued community conversations like “How to Save a Life.” We thank the City of Vancouver for supporting this series, CBC Vancouver for its media sponsorship, neighbourhood houses across Vancouver for opening their doors to us for these events, and all of you who took time out of a busy autumn to attend an event, volunteer at one, or read about us in these pages.

Thank you so much for your support in amplifying marginalized voices, and creating spaces like these where we can build a more inclusive society.

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