Vol 16 Edition 4

Paint the town purple to mark International Overdose Awareness Day

From hearts in the sand, to memorial trees, naloxone training, soccer matches and cupcakes, the creativity of people marking International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD)– the global day of action to end overdose – is boundless.

Hearts in the sand at Cotton Tree Beach, Maroochydore, Queensland for IOAD 2018. Photo by Jasmin Raggam for Jon’s Story.

For IOAD 2018, the Jon’s Story organisation created a sea of purple hearts in the sand at Cotton Tree Beach in Maroochydore, Queensland. Purple is the colour of IOAD and each heart included a message of remembrance.

Organiser of the event, Jasmin Raggam lost her brother Jon. Jon was taking his medication as prescribed but died from an accidental overdose when his opioid pain medication interacted with an anti-depressant prescribed for nerve pain.

“Overdose can happen to anyone at any time,” Jasmin said.

For Jasmin, there were many good things about holding the event.

“Knowing you have made a difference, possibly saved a life by education and breaking down the stigma,” Jasmin said.

“We had the opportunity to tell our story while hearing others. It created a sense of a caring community.”

– Tree planting for IOAD 2018 at Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS) Mildura, Victoria.
– A participant at EACH’s 2018 IOAD event in Ferntree Gully, Melbourne, lights a candle to remember those who have died of overdose.

Julie Nicolaou is Project Hope Project Officer at EACH Social and Community Health in Melbourne. For IOAD 2018, EACH held a morning tea which included speeches, memorial candles, a memorial tree and naloxone training.

“Many participants stated that they previously hadn’t understood how stigma is communicated in the way we talk and write. They said they plan to use more informed language now. They also appreciated the information about naloxone,” Julie said.

John Ryan, CEO of Penington Institute – the convenors of IOAD – said that the day is an Australian success story.

“International Overdose Awareness Day commenced in St Kilda, Melbourne in 2001,” John said.

In 2012 Penington Institute began its stewardship of IOAD and since then the campaign leading up to the day has grown in scope and scale.

“In 2013 there were 75 events and activities held across the world. We’ve seen a ten-fold increase since then – in 2018 there were 747 registered activities and events held in 38 countries,” he said.

“Community members and organisations run activities and hold events to raise awareness of the issue of overdose and call for government and community action to help end overdose.

“There were many highlights in 2018. Flags of Hope, a community organisation in Toronto, Canada arranged for major landmarks, including the CN Tower, to be lit purple to help raise awareness of overdose. They also organised for Toronto’s mayor to issue a proclamation about IOAD.

“In Afghanistan, the head of the national AIDS and hepatitis control program announced that ‘drug use is not a crime’ and asked all hospitals and service providers to stock naloxone – a great outcome of the day.”

With 31 August rapidly approaching there is still time to plan an activity or event. The IOAD site includes a planning toolkit for event and activity organisers. As 31 August falls on a Saturday this year, you can hold your activity or event in the days leading up to IOAD if a weekday event better suits your audience.

  • The IOAD website has many resources such as posters and factsheets to download and print out.
  • You can buy badges, wristbands and lanyards in the online shop.
  • You can also post on your social media using the hashtags #EndOverdose, #IOAD and #OverdoseAware.

– Sophie Marcard