reflecting on wisdom2action

All behaviour has meaning. Treatment doesn't have a real definition.

On March 27th, I spent the day with young people and youth service providers, all brought together by the CYCC Network. The event was called Wisdom2Action (W2A): Substance Use and was part of a series of workshops the network hosts.

We spent the day together in Halifax, learning about new ways to address youth substance use and abuse through personal stories and wisdom. Often (almost always) workshops and conferences are boring and dry, or become a series attendees attempting to one upping each other's work, but W2A is completely different. We spend our day actually working with each other in a number of engaging ways that lead to conversations that produced a narrative of where we are now, where we need to go, and who needs and is willing to bring the change. 


I found the workshop to be a refreshing change in facilitation, but also found that it brought up some pretty import themes when it comes to youth substance abuse and I would like to reflect on some the key takeaways that I either gained, or had reiterated during W2A that I think can help others better understand substance use, and where they can help. 

  • Trends in drug use exist, and are constantly changing, however, the trends aren't always what the media is highlighting. For example yes Fentanyl is deathly and dangerous, but so is Lean (which I couldn't even find a link with factual information on to link for you - that’s a problem). and until W2A I didn't know that Lean was a current trend amount young people right here in Halifax. It is important to step away from the screen and speak with young people. Find out what youth are hearing, thinking, and feeling.


  • Listen to and respect the voice of youth using substances, youth who are using substance are people with brains and ideas. Listen to why they are using. Listen to what else they are doing what they are doing. Every behaviour has meaning, and there is likely a layered narrative behind that youth.


  • Build on the strengths that you see, focus on the good, sometimes that's the most valuable immediate focus. The addiction itself can come later. Meet youth where they are and help them see that they do have skills, they do have value, they do deserve a good life whatever that means for them. Doesn't mean it is easy, but it's important to try.


  • The silos of metal illness and substance abuse need to be broken down. Self-medication is real, sometime reduction strategies are needed; if we remove the silos we make room for more innovative new treatments and services. If we remove the silos we can create more integrated services that help address the multiple layers that exist when we move into things like addictions. 


  • Service providers need support too. The lack of resources to tackle substance abuse leave lasting impacts on the supports. The supporters need to have the capacity to provide help without harming themselves in the process.

These are just a few of the points that I took away from the event, but there were many ideas and teachings about where we go next and what the landscape looks like, which will all be included in a report created by CYCC. I look forward to sharing the report and if you have the chance I highly recommend taking part in a Wisdom2Action event near you. 

- A