Fort Smith comes out for week of addictions awareness


“It’s so important to hear stories from people who are in the same position. It just shows that people are not alone in their recovery and not alone in their addiction.”

Fort Smith is three days into National Addictions Awareness Week and Sebastian Bourke, a mental wellness and addictions recovery worker in the town, eagerly awaits Wednesday evening’s sharing circle.

“There’s no authority figure, it’s peer-to-peer support,” Bourke said, describing the intimate, supportive atmosphere that such circles can encourage.

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Bourke says rates of mental health crisis in the NWT are sufficiently high that the issue must be “talked about on a bigger level, and it needs to be talked about with people who have that lived experience.”

The Wednesday sharing circle, from 6pm till 9pm at Uncle Gabe’s friendship centre gymnasium, is followed by a screening of Fort Smith movie Three Feathers on Thursday and a sober community feast and giveaway on Friday.

Bourke said a community awareness walk on Monday and school addictions awareness event on Tuesday had been well-attended – both of them representing opportunities to introduce people to the resources on offer.

“A lot of students came up and talked with us,” Bourke said.

“It’s good that we have these types of events for the community to know this is available to them. If we didn’t, a lot of people wouldn’t even know. Even if it’s not the person coming to the event, they can go tell friends and family.”

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Despite the well-documented extent of the North’s mental health crisis this year, Bourke wants residents to know that northerners can usually access help quickly and easily – with travel costs covered to reach the services required.

“That’s really special,” Bourke said. “Bigger centres in bigger provinces do not have that.”

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To find out more about remaining National Addictions Awareness Week events in Fort Smith, read through this series of posters containing details.