Since starting at the Turning Point Society three years ago, Michelle Hansen has seen many victims of overdose.
This Sunday, Hansen, who is the Women’s Program Team Lead at Turning Point, will remember the lives lost to overdose during Black Balloon Day.
“This is kind of the first year (Black Balloon Day) has become a big deal in Canada,” said Michelle Hansen, Women’s Program Team Lead at Turning Point Society in Red Deer.
Black Balloon Day is an internationally marked day that provides an opportunity for families and loved ones to remember and celebrate the lives of those who have died by overdose.
“Moms Stop the Harm, which has people scattered across Wester Canada, decided they wanted to participate this year to raise awareness,” said Hansen.
After Moms Stop the Harm partnered with other overdose awareness groups in Western Canada for Black Balloon Day, Alberta Alliance Who Educates and Advocates Responsibly and Turning Point teamed up to commemorate the day as well.
“We thought it would be a wonderful thing to do for us and our clients. Anything we can do to raise more awareness, we’re always happy to do,” said Hansen.
Leading up to Black Balloon Day, Turning Point has been posting pictures on social media of people holding up a chalk board with the name of a loved one who died by overdose.
“A lot of our clients wanted to take photos, but (some) told me there’s not enough room on that chalk board to write the names of all of the people they’ve lost,” she said.
It’s important to raise awareness because there is a stigma around overdose, said Hansen.
“So many people that are dying here and everywhere else are not people that are typically seen as being (people) on the street. It’s affecting everyone,” she said.
“A vast majority of people that are dying are young men who are partying and are abusing contaminated cocaine or people who are hiding in shame, embarrassed of their addiction, using alone and then dying in their homes with no chance of being saved.”