In this environment of texting, twitter and a barrage of other social media expressions, there seems to be a laziness in how we communicate. Less words, use of acronyms, emojis and gifs combined with a complete separation of reality to context, or even literacy, drive the messaging.
So it is, with the absence of fact or naïve internet word searching based on generations of ingrained bias and indeed ignorance, that the common practice of labelling others becomes prevalent. Have we really become so intuitive that we can determine the very thoughts or struggles of each person walking past us? “This one is a druggy”, “that one is unhinged”, or “stay away from those kinds of people”.
In fact, we don’t know what keeps our fellow Brant citizens up at night. But what we think, and more so how we say it, has tremendous consequence to our neighbours friends and the stranger at the bus stop or the restaurant booth next to ours.
Saturday, at Harmony Square in downtown Brantford, one of the 14 similar walks in Brant/Brantford this weekend, gathered over 50 people to support the Anti-Stigma Jane’s Walk. Lacey Dasilva and Laura Fretz are two of the organizers representing the Brantford/Brant Drug Strategy coalition. They explained that the purpose is to support those impacted from mental health and substance use and to increase awareness of substance use related stigma for those along the continuum of use and recovery, their loved ones and allies. Their t-shirts clearly show how #wordsmatter. One person sees an ‘addict’ as a convenient label but ignores the person or their family’s interventions.
Walk participants travelled a pre-mapped walk through the down-town core, with several stops along the way highlighting where to get help and offering educational sound bites. Participants chalked messages on the sidewalk and supported the poster campaign which was a series of poignant personal expressions from those suffering, to fellow Brant citizens, co-workers and family members.
The origin of this initiative began in Buffalo New York under a coalition of crisis support services headed up by Jane Mogavero, Executive Director of a private foundation dedicated to creating awareness and the importance of early diagnosis. Their words:
“The stigma—or negative feelings, attitudes and stereotypes—that surround mental health can make getting help scary and leading a fulfilling life difficult. Stigma prevents people from seeking help. It restricts resources from being allocated. And it discourages others from lending their support.”
The weekend walks are a new initiative in Brant for a fledging coalition only created over the past several months. Staff from St. Leonard’s Community Services, Brant County Health Unit, Nova Vita and WhyNot Youth Centre have been the lead agencies and are now prepared to reach out to other organizations.
If you would like to become involved or have questions, contact:
Brant County Health Unit
194 Terrace Hill Street
Brantford, ON N3R 1G7