People at the remembrance gathering organized by Masters of Hope on International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 18. (Masters of Hope/Facebook)

Spreading overdose awareness through stories and empty purple chairs

Masters of Hope organized a remembrance gathering downtown on Aug.31 for more than 30 people who had lost loved ones to overdose

On Monday evening more than two dozen people gathered downtown near the intersection between Highway 19A and Dogwood Street in remembrance of those who have died of overdose.

Organized by Masters of Hope (MOH) – a Campbell River based support group that advocates for awareness about overdose, addiction struggles and mental health – the gathering took place on International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31.

On a banner, people came and wrote the names of loved ones they lost. There were purple-coloured empty chairs lined up to represent the space of loved ones people present had lost.

Around 30 people came out and shared their stories.

Tracy Masters, one of the founders of MOH, said that the remembrance gathering was to spread awareness and to reach out to people were still reeling from the loss of a loved one to overdose or suicide.

“There was a lot of sadness and frustration, people had lost so much. One lady who attended the gathering had lost nine people and another had lost five people. Everyone feels helpless and our message was that every loss is personal, we are all human beings and deserve compassion and kindness,” Masters said.

Masters also said that the gathering was an opportunity to address the stigma and send a message out that “no one deserves to be shamed.”

People also asked questions and wanted to know how and where they can access full treatment centres.

This is the second year that MOH organized an Overdose Awareness Day gathering in Campbell River.

Masters started the MOH group in 2019 after the death of her 30-year-old daughter from intentional overdose. She had also lost her first husband to suicide in 2006 after battling alcoholism and mood disorders, and her 25- year-old-son died from a brain aneurysm in 2010.

READ MORE: Tragedy leads to ‘Hope’ for Masters family

B.C. witnessed a spike in overdose deaths in 2020, with more than 900 deaths in the first seven months of the year. July – with 175 fatal overdoses – was the third month in a row where overdose deaths topped 170. Provincial authorities including health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Premier John Horgan have pushed to decriminalize simple possession of prohibited drugs.

READ MORE : Fatal overdoses continue to spike in B.C. as July sees 175 illicit drug deaths

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