I don’t know about you, but there are days when the events in the world leave my head spinning. In British Columbia, it has been particularly devastating to see the number of overdose deaths by far outnumber COVID-19 deaths. While many variables contribute to substance abuse, one I'd like to create more awareness for is the role of dignity.
Using the Belonging Matters framework in the overdose crisis
In 2019, I had the privilege of working on a year-long project with local experts on the overdose crisis - people who either used substances or were in recovery. We drew on the Belonging Matters framework and toolkit to support their voice, dignity and leadership.
Most of our experts (people with lived experience) had experienced an overdose at some point in their lives. All had experienced the pain of being stigmatized when they reached out for help when they needed it the most. These painful experiences led many to self-isolate and self-medicate even more, putting their lives and health at risk.
Through their stories, I learned that we can never underestimate the power of building a sense of dignity in saving lives. These two quotes from leaders with lived experience stands out the most for me:
- “I feel I don’t belong when service providers roll their eyes, follow me in stores or talk about me in front of other people not respecting confidentiality.”
- “Shame is the hardest feeling of all. It can lead to not reaching out for help, using drugs, overdose and death.”
When people feel safe and are confident they will be treated with respect and dignity, they are more willing to reach out for help.
What Dignity and Belonging mean...
- Build rapport and ask me how my day is going
- Show me respect & trust
- Be interested in who I am and my story
- Make eye contact
- Don’t just look at the form you are filling out
- Ask questions to understand
- Show genuine interest
- Don’t follow me in the store
- Talk quietly about confidential information
- Don’t assume every ailment is connected to my addiction
- Understand we have a disease, are vulnerable and need support
- Ask me, don’t assume
3 Strategies Every Leader Needs to Know to Facilitate Change
CHANGES IN PROGRESS