Opinion: It's time to talk about the traumas faced by women with addiction

Mar 8 2022, 3:00 pm

Written for Daily Hive by Sabine Kempe; Greater Vancouver Advisory Board, The Salvation Army BC Division and Chair of The Salvation Army’s Women’s Giving Circle, a group dedicated to raising funds for the Diane Harwood Centre for Women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. She is also the Director of Finance at Telus.

In February, the BC Coroner’s Service released a report that showed overdose deaths among women are increasing. In fact, 2021 marked the deadliest year on record, with 484 women dying of overdose in BC, a shocking 45% increase over 2020.

Unfortunately, no one is talking about this.

No one is talking about how concerning these rising numbers are given that healthy women are central to our families, communities, and essential services and are critical to the wellbeing of society.

This is not just a problem for a certain segment of the population; it impacts women regardless of economic status, age, geographic location, race or ethnicity. These are our sisters, cousins, mothers, daughters, and friends — and yet, no one is talking about this.

No one talks about the challenges that women come up against when accessing treatment for addiction, such as childcare needs, complex family histories, abuse including trauma from violence or exploitation, past involvement in survival sex work, and other safety concerns, all of which require special support.

No one is talking about the sad fact that many women simply do not seek help because the availability and accessibility of treatment options for women are extremely limited and virtually inaccessible, leaving women with little to no options for recovery.

What’s more, if you are a woman seeking treatment for addiction in Vancouver, you will face longer wait times than a man seeking the same treatment. This is not acceptable because additional waiting time means more women will slip back into the throws of addiction.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the inequities faced by women, including bearing the brunt of additional and unpaid work at home, resulting in both mental and physical health issues for women.

For too long, women’s needs have been overlooked, and now is the time to talk about it.

Let’s talk openly about the unique issues and challenges facing women and come together to solve this problem. Let’s work together to reduce the shame and stigma many women feel when talking about addiction issues so that more women come forward to get the help they need.

HERstory of Hope

Let’s talk about hope. The Salvation Army’s HERstory of Hope campaign kicks off during Women’s History Month and aims to shine a light on the challenges and traumas experienced by women with addiction.

The campaign will feature candid discussions with women from a variety of backgrounds who have lived with addiction and influential women who care about and have a personal connection to the issue.

On March 8, venues across the city will be lit up in yellow to “shine a spotlight” on these issues and light up those dark places that can be scary for women.

We invite you to join the movement by sharing a few “words of hope” for women living with addiction at HERstoryOfHope.ca. It only takes a minute, it’s free, and it’s a powerful way to express your support for women and addiction.

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