By Sophia Lopez, November 21 2022—
The Students in Communications (SiC) club at the University of Calgary, along with the Faculty of Arts Students’ Association (FASA) are hosting a week-long harm reduction and substance dependency awareness event starting today until November 25.
The organizations teamed up last November, in conjunction with the Liam Project, to host this same event. This year, the event will be held in-person but through a hybrid format, offering both in-person and Zoom resources. In an interview with the Gauntlet, SiC President Kaari Hall said the success and feedback received from last year’s event served as motivation to keep doing this kind of work.
“We’re collaborating with a bunch of local organizations who focus on harm reduction and it offering those resources and supports to students, as well as collaborating with different campus resources like the Wellness Centre, the UCalgary Recovery Community, and groups like that to help us inform these presentations and these workshops,” said Hall. “Students can be led through different stages and ideas of harm reduction and different supports without just relying on the old concept of sobriety as the concept of recovery.”
The vice-president external of FASA, Sebastian Rodriguez, explained how this event was inspired by the harm reduction volunteering he and Hall took part in.
“[We] realized that there’s a lot of stigma in our university community, especially with students that use drugs to cope with the stress of university, or even partying,” said Rodriguez. “There’s never really a conversation about better access or the care that [students] might need without being judged.”
Hall believes that there are a lot of resources out there for students, they’re just not all available on campus.
“Students’ addiction issues aren’t really considered to be important the same way [as other issues]. It’s kind of washed away with that university lifestyle,” said Hall. “But for a lot of people, they’re really struggling.
“We wanted to showcase the different ways that people can get support without being stigmatized, but also just show people that the more they realize that addiction is simply a symptom of root issues, the more we can actually have these productive conversations about substance use and addiction, to see what people actually need,” Hall added.
A big part of the event is not to promote the idea of staying away from drugs. Hall explained that SiC and FASA want to help students find a way to consume substances more safely.
“Part of our messaging is that we don’t want it to tell anybody to stay away from anything,” said Hall. “What they choose to put in their body — there are so many different overlaying reasons that we can’t really just come in and be like, ‘don’t do this, don’t do that.’”
Melissa Morris, the director of student affairs at SiC, encourages all students to participate in the week-long event which can still be very informative to those who aren’t partaking in substance usage.
“I’d say it’s integral to the event to include community and peer support,” said Morris. “We really want to bring together people who do use substances and people who don’t to understand that there doesn’t need to be stigma around these things, that we’re all human beings.”
Morris goes on to elaborate how attending the event can even help people support others who they know are using substances, such as providing drug testing strips to help keep everyone safe.
“We’re providing lots of opportunities for people from all walks of life, with all different levels of substance use, whether it’s absolutely none to dependency, there’s going to be something for everybody to be involved in and to learn to all come together as a community,” said Morris.
Hall hopes that students can find some time during the week to come to learn about an issue that is far more prevalent in our community than many may think. She and the rest of SiC and FASA are excited to raise more awareness on harm reduction and substance dependency and help U of C students.
“Sobriety is not the answer for everybody,” said Hall. “Sometimes people just need somebody who is able to listen to them, have a hot meal, and then have clean and safe jugs to use. And sometimes that’s all that is necessary for them to be using substances safer.”