First of all, thank you for clicking the link that brought you here. That tells us you’re curious. Curiosity is the first step in acquiring new knowledge and learning or changing our existing beliefs.
People’s opinions are hard things to give up or change. Often beliefs are formed from negative experiences in our past. Beliefs can be shaped by old ideas, concepts, or information that no longer stand the test of the latest science evidence-based knowledge.
For some people, harm reduction can be like that. People can have a hard time with harm reduction, especially when it’s connected to challenges like mental health or substance disorders.
Simply put, harm reduction is anything that prevents injury or death. For example, wearing a seat belt in your car is a harm reduction. Making your child wear a helmet, elbow, and knee pads when they skateboard is harm reduction. A government policy to not allow advertising for cigarettes or alcohol is harm reduction.
Frankly, when you think about it, humans have been implementing harm reduction ever since cave dwellers discovered fire – putting a barrier of rocks around a campfire is harm reduction.
For some reason, when we apply the principles of harm reduction to mental health and substance disorders, a few folks instantly think that it’s in some way enabling people to continue their conditions. For example, giving clean syringes to people who inject substances somehow allows them to continue to use substances, even though we know that clean syringes prevent infections and the spread of HIV or hepatitis. On the flip side, giving syringes to people with diabetes is perfectly fine.
Harm reduction isn’t for a few. It’s for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a smoker, have a heart condition, or use substances. Harm reduction is meant to keep you alive because no matter your challenges, YOUR life is important.
We have some great resources for you to explore harm reduction for people with mental health or substance use disorder.
- National Harm Reduction Coalition
- Harm reduction International – What is Harm Reduction?
- Toward The Heart – Naloxone
- LifeGuard App – Don’t Use Alone
- NORS – National Overdose Response Services – Call and talk to a live person when you use alone.
- First Nations Health Authority – Overdose prevention & Harm Reduction
- Vancouver Island Overdose Prevention Sites (OPSs)
- BC Centre for Disease Control – Harm Reduction Services
- Island Health – Substance Use Info