The Mount Allison Wellness Centre is offering a variety of events and workshops from November 21 to 27, in recognition of National Addictions Awareness Week. The first of these events was the Refrains for Recovery concert that took place on November 21. This event was a collaboration between the Wellness Centre and the Music Department, as it featured speakers discussing their experiences with addiction and substance abuse, as well as musical performances by students in between each short speech.
The speakers were Katie Waller, Lisa Ryan, Jenn Fredericks, Jocelyne Woodin, Rene Ross, and Darcy Cormier, a group that included students, counsellors, and educators alike. The performers for this concert were Annika Williams, Sébastien Leclerc, Emma Cameron, Lydie-Anne Ruest Belliveau, Caitlin Strong, Amanda Godin, Isaac Stepaniak, and myself! All of the musical performances were fantastic and really beautiful. Writer and sex educator Rene Ross mentioned that she was grateful to have the music as a way of connecting each of the speeches, because “music is so healing to people in therapy; it is so calming.”
When speaking about the concert with Mt. A’s mental health/harm reduction educator Darcy Cormier, she reiterated the importance of harm reduction resources on campus. “This is an important step towards supporting students wherever they are. [We are] promoting nonjudgmental support, where students are treated with dignity and respect [and treated] as a person first.” Housing and homelessness consultant Lisa Ryan also touched on the importance of language and how altering what language we use can help to end the stigma surrounding addiction and substance abuse. “You are not an addict, you are someone who has experienced addiction. You are a human first.”
This is the first year that Mt. A is recognizing National Addictions Awareness Week, and Wellness Centre Mental Health Intern Katie Waller is very grateful that the university is starting to push for more support systems and hopes that people will continue to turn up for the remaining events this week. “I wish that universities had resources like this in place sooner,” Rene told the audience. Drinking in excess or doing drugs can make you feel good, even though you are harming yourself; “Sometimes it is hard to see everything crashing down around you when you’re having such a good time. . . harm reduction really does save lives.”
Rene also emphasized that if you are struggling with addiction or substance abuse, you have nothing to be ashamed of. There are people and support systems in place to help you get the support you need, and there are many people in this community fighting to end the stigma surrounding addiction. As student performer Belliveau put it, “you’ll never walk alone.”
You can find out more about National Addictions Awareness Week, and the other supports offered by Mount A, by following @mtawellnesscentre @mtawellnesscentreinterns and @navigatemta on Instagram.