A gut-wrenching campaign aimed at raising overdose awareness and ending stigma is coming to Penticton.
Oliver resident Jill McCullum, who leads a group known as Moms Stop the Harm, credits “friends, family, the loving town of Oliver and OneSky in Penticton” for helping raise enough funds to purchase an ad for two Penticton B.C. Transit buses.
The ads, with the MSTH logo, will run during January and February and are intended to remind people they aren’t alone in their struggle with the ongoing overdose crisis.
“Everyone’s coming off the high or heaviness (of Christmas), with those depression feelings because they’re missing people at a table, or missing loved ones,” said McCullum of the decision to run the ads after the holidays.
“It’s just to say, ‘Hey, we hear you, we know you’re there, we’re just trying to comfort you.’”
Moms Stop the Harm, explained McCullum, is a group that has garnered national attention and helps people from all walks of life who have struggled after losing a loved one to overdose.
It’s a battle she knows personally.
McCullum founded the group after losing her son Nick in 2017 to a drug overdose. Nick had served in the military and was deployed to Afghanistan, where he lost two close friends in combat. He returned with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“He was never the same,” recalled McCullum. “He was on a cocktail of drugs for support by well-meaning physicians, but no one really knew how to deal with his PTSD.”
“Our mandate is … anti-stigma, harm reduction (and) trying to support decriminalization of drug use in Canada,” she said.
McCullum was recently a part of a photoshoot with a group of mothers who also lost loved ones to overdose, and the image, taken on Knox Mountain in Kelowna in August, “went viral.”
“The Globe and Mail picked it up and ran it,” said McCullum.
That image then made its way onto eight Kelowna city buses.
The group, which meets in the South Okanagan as needed, has an online support group. McCullum encourages anyone who wishes to join to visit the Moms Stop the Harm website and sign up.
“You can say anything and there’s no judgement, no stigma. And through it, the friendships (are) incredible,” she said.
“These (victims) are somebody’s someone,” said McCullum. “It doesn’t discriminate on race, religion, your bank account, nothing. This opioid epidemic is hitting anyone and everyone.”
McCullum said a Christmas has been tree set up at the Penticton Regional Hospital with ornaments, each of which include a photo of a loved one lost to overdose and a small message inside.
The tree can be found in the David Kampe tower.