NWT Addictions Awareness Week
November 25 to December 1, 2019, is NWT Addictions Awareness Week!
This year, we are following the theme of the National Addictions Awareness Week which is Stigma Ends with Me.
What is stigma?
Stigma is the negative attitudes or prejudice and behaviours or discrimination related to any attribute, trait or disorder that causes a person to be labeled as different from others.
Unfortunately, stigma exists around mental illness and addictions such as substance use disorders and problematic gambling.
Many people with mental illness say that the stigma can be worse than the illness itself.
We are all affected by mental health and addictions, whether personally or through family and friends. Mental health concerns affect more people in Canada than some of the major physical disorders, yet 60% of individuals will not seek help due to the fear of being judged or labelled (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2019).
Stigma can also create barriers for people living with, or in recovery from, mental health and addiction issues. For example, stigma may result in discrimination which prevents people from accessing needed services or finding safe housing or employment.
Self-stigma is when a person begins to believe the negative things that others and the media are saying about them which results in the prejudice being internalized. For example, people may experience low self-esteem and feelings of guilt and shame around having an addiction.
How can you help end the stigma?
Learn the facts about mental health and addictions:
Stigma stems from fear and a lack of understanding.Therefore, you can help end stigma by learning more about mental health and addictions. The more awareness people have about these, the less stigma will exist.
Substance use disorders are real medical conditions just like other health problems such as diabetes and arthritis. Addictions are not a choice or a failure. Often, people need help to recover. Addictions are common and affect people from all walks of life.
- According to the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health, about 21.6% of Canadians aged 15 and older that were surveyed, met the criteria for a substance use disorder during their lifetime.
- The 2018 NWT Tobacco, Alcohol & Drug Survey found that, 74% of NWT residents aged 15 years and older who were surveyed reported that they currently drink alcohol. Out of these, 39.3% reported typically drinking 5 or more drinks on one occasion.
Our words matter:
Commonly used words like ‘addict’ or ‘alcoholic’ label a person by their condition and can keep stigma alive. Instead, choose to use language that reduces stigma such as using ‘person-first’ language. People are much more than their disorder. For example, say instead: ‘a person living with a substance use disorder’ or ‘a person experiencing an addiction’.
Instead of saying ‘substance abuse’ which can be stigmatizing, say: ‘substance use’, ‘substance use disorder’ or ‘problematic substance use’.
For more information on language and stigma, view our document: Stigma and Addictions: Our Words Matter
We all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Treat others how you would like to be treated if you were in their situation.
If you have a loved one or co-worker who is experiencing a substance use problem, support their choices and encourage them as they take steps towards getting well (Reference: CAMH:
For more ideas, view our document: Supporting Addictions Recovery.
There is help and recovery is possible.
For information on addictions and the help available in the NWT, please visit:
- NWT Helpline
- Your local Community Counselling Program can guide you through the options available to you.
Some NWT communities have self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Al-Anon. For more information on 12 step programs:
To find other resources available in your community, check out the Health and Social Services Northwest Territories Help Directory 2019.
What is happening in my community?
Watch our NWT Addictions Awareness Week playlist:
- Health Effects of Cannabis
- Opioid Overdose Prevention
- Quit Smoking
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
- Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
- Mental Health First Aid Canada: Safer Language Reference Guide (Mental Health Commission of Canada)
- Problematic Substance Use (Government of Canada)
- HeretoHelp: Website of the BC Partners for Mental Health & Substance Use
For information on National Addictions Awareness Week, please click here.