Tomorrow, August 31 marks the 21st International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD), started in Melbourne, Australia, in 2001. Sally Finn, a manager of the Salvation Army syringe program, saw the sorrow that families experienced when they lost their loved ones to a drug overdose. When she realized that the families were unable to express their grief due to the stigma of drug use, Sally arranged an event that would allow families to commemorate the memories of their departed loved ones. Six thousand ribbons were distributed that day, and the awareness day has been supported every year since then.
According to the the International Overdose Awareness Day website, there are several ways to make a difference on this global event day to celebrate, commemorate, or educate:
- Hold a candlelight vigil or memorial service.
- Plant a tree.
- Have a barbecue.
- Invite a speaker.
- Have an open mic night.
- Offer an educational program, such as one related to preventing opioid use, in partnership with a local organization.
- Provide a safe space for telling the stories of overdose victims.
- Offer a large canvas and washable paint so survivors can add a handprint in memory of their loved one.
- Display empty hats or shoes to represent the number of lives lost in the community.
- Use the IOAD’s Event Organizers’ Support Kit as a planning guide.
- Access the IOAD’s Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter page to show support and share posts using the hashtag #OverdoseAware and #EndOverdose.
- Change your Facebook or Twitter profile picture in support of IOAD on August 31.
- Add the name of a loved one who died of an opioid overdose to the “Celebrating Lost Loved Ones” map.
- Purchase or create purple wristbands, pins, shirts, or other items to be worn on August 31.
- Research state and federal legislation that addresses opioid overdose prevention, and write to your representative.
- Support IOAD efforts by donating to end the opioid crisis by making a gift in honor of a loved one.