Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Canadians’ mental health has been declining. National data shows that self-reported depression has more than doubled, from 4% to 10%. The number of adults experiencing anxiety has quadrupled , increasing from 5% to 20% of adults.
When we talk about mental health, depression and anxiety, it is essential we include a conversation about the nature of substance use and addiction. 1.5 times more likely to engage in daily alcohol use and 2 times more likely to engage in daily cannabis use.
This reality leaves many wondering what can be done about it. Read on to learn how you can help, with actions ranging from increasing your awareness about addictions to considering the reasons to pursue a career as an addictions worker.
How To Help Someone With Drug Addiction & Depression
National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW) and National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Week, both observed November 20-26 and November 23-29, respectively — provide the opportunity and focus on moving towards understanding, preventing, and treating addiction. This year’s theme for NAAW is a Community of Caring, which encourages us to collaborate as a community to make change happen.
Collectively, we need to change our understanding of addiction and the ways we treat it more than ever before. Addiction often happens in isolation; it stays hidden in dark corners because of the stigma that is attached to it. A Community of Caring isn’t just about best practice; it’s about saving lives.
If you are wondering how to help someone struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues, there are a number of ways you can support them. As an individual, you can observe NAAW, read their online resources to educate yourself, or you could participate in the NAAW activities we’ve listed below.
National Addictions Awareness Week Activities
National Addictions Awareness Week isn’t really something to celebrate. It’s an occasion to observe, by doing something meaningful that can help those who are struggling. You don’t have to be a hero and do it all, but here are some of the ways you can help observe NAAW.
- Learn all you can about the connection between substance use, addictions, and mental health.
- Address your biases; are you judging people unfairly?
- Consider your language: ridding yourself of stigmatizing words e.g., “junkie,” or “addict” helps
- Instead using reframing language, e.g. “person struggling with substance use”
- Consider a career exercising addictions counselling skills in the community health field.
- Revisit and resume your part in the 94 Calls to Action on the National Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s website
- Tweet or post your messages of support for those suffering from substance use or addictions with the hashtags #communitycaring and #naaw2022
Do you want to be a part of this community of caring in a more formal way? If you have the drive and desire to make a positive impact in the lives of those struggling with addiction, you might want to consider pursuing Addictions & Community Health Professional Diploma to obtain the knowledge and training needed to work as an addiction worker. The role of an addiction worker includes addictions counselling, case management, advocacy and community building.
Is Addiction Counselling A Good Career Path?
With the prevalence of addiction, especially since the pandemic, we need addictions workers in all areas of our communities. Places where addictions counselling takes place includes:
- Women’s Services
- Veteran Supports
- Mental Health
- Pregnancy Centres
- Food Banks
- Peer Support
- Friendship Centres
- Harm Reduction Programs
- Housing Services
- Family Services
- 2SLGBTQ+ Services
- Child & Youth Outreach
- Mentorship Programs
- And More
Job creation in community mental health and addictions is projected to be above the average of all occupations as a result of the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, as well as the public's greater awareness of social issues such as population aging, mental health, and violence.
What Do Most Addictions Workers Do Each Day?
Where you end up working will determine your day-to-day duties, as no two jobs in community health are the same. Community health is based on partnerships and collaboration among organizations, meaning you will be exposed to several different health sectors regardless of where you are employed.
With that said, here are a few things you might do on the job:
- Group therapy facilitation
- Relapse prevention initiatives with real people
- Practicing intervention strategies with real people
- And more
Get the Training You Need to Help Others
Ready to make a difference? If you want to take it even further, consider becoming an Addictions & Community Health Professional (ACHP) through Sundance College.
Our ACHP Diploma offers courses that cover everything you will need to know to pursue a career that can support those struggling with addiction, ranging from the “why” behind addiction, to practical skills like CPR.
For example, the High-Risk Populations course helps students understand the socioeconomic factors that contribute to the likelihood of becoming addicted, while the Pharmacology of Addictions course helps students understand neuroplasticity and the impacts of substance use on the brain. Further, no matter where you end up doing addictions work in the community, your day-to-day will require you to apply addictions counselling techniques and skills.
The courses offered through the Addictions and Community Health program, including Addictions Awareness Today and High-Risk Populations, will equip you to serve many different populations within the community struggling with addiction. Indigenous communities are especially at risk when it comes to substance abuse and addiction. An important part of being an addictions worker is engaging in allyship and learning that addiction needs to be understood as so much more than a brain disease.
A Community of Caring is more than just a hashtag we use this week. It should be a movement that acknowledges how we live in a society that creates groups at high-risk for addiction.
Support Resources For Those In Need
If you, or someone you know, are struggling yourself, no matter your age, race, sex, gender, orientation or any other background, please know you aren’t alone — lean on professionals trained to help effectively. Reach out to one of the addictions resources available Canada-wide:
- Wellness Together Canada
- Kids Help Phone
- Drug Rehab Services
- CAPSA Peer Support
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- SMART Recovery
- Families for Addiction Recovery
- And more