Conference In Olds On Depression Suicide And Drug Overdose Prevention Draws A Crowd

About 65 people attended an event at Pomeroy Inn & Suites in Olds to provide hope for those suffering from depression, thoughts of suicide or grief over those who’ve passed away from drug overdoses

OLDS — On Nov. 23, about 65 people attended an event to provide hope for those suffering from depression, thoughts of suicide or grief over those who’ve passed away from drug overdoses.

Called The Conversation Has To Happen, an evening of conversation and hope, the event, held at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites, lasted roughly four hours including light supper.

Attendees heard from four speakers.

One was Fly Fishing Bow River Outfitters operator and former Olds Grizzlys head coach Dana Lattery, who lives in Olds and runs a podcast called Fly Fishing Saves Lives.

Another was Marilee Ayers of the Burden Bearers Counselling Centre, a non-profit agency that operates in Sundre and Rocky Mountain House. She recently started counselling people in Caroline as well.

A third speaker was Petra Schultz of Edmonton, one of three women who founded the organization Moms Stop The Harm in 2016 after they lost their sons from accidental drug overdoses or suicide.

Also, pharmacist Mehal Petral give advice on how to utilize kits that contain naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses, at least temporarily.

In his youth, Lattery was a hockey player who not only played for the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Olds Grizzly, but made it all the way to university and minor pro hockey.

However, along the way, he suffered several injuries, including an eye injury which all combined to spell the end of his playing days.

Lattery came back to Olds and coached the Junior A Olds Grizzlys but eventually found himself out of the game.

That was brutal for him because his whole identity was that of a hockey player. He hadn’t conceived of any other life or identity.

“You’re damaged goods; you’re nobody,” he said. “I didn’t know how to act or live without hockey.”

Due to his eye injury, at one point, on doctor’s orders, Lattery had to sit in a dark basement and basically do nothing for about six months. It was the hardest thing he’d ever done in his life, and the most depressing.

“That was the darkest part of my life,” he said. “I was a miserable human.”

Now he’s discovered that his love of fly fishing, the outdoors in general and the opportunity to share that with people has not only improved his life, but the lives of many of his clients.

And he’s noticed how tough it is out there.

“I find that often when I speak to groups that not everybody sitting here is suicidal, not everybody here is depressed, but a lot of people are thinking that (way),” Lattery said.

Lattery said many of the clients he takes out onto the river and into the wilderness suddenly open up about the pressures of their lives and how hard that’s been on them.

“My 17-foot-six fibreglass therapy boat is the place that frees them from the chaotic world,” he said.

Lattery said our current way of life robs people of the joy they need in their lives.

They need friends and a good community to interact with and support them.

“I’ve learned not to take things too seriously and to have fun out there,” he said, adding people need adventure, that sense of accomplishment by overcoming something challenging.

Another key, he said is love.

“I don’t think we love enough,” Lattery said. “I think there’s too much hate in the world.”

Schulz lost her son Danny, who struggled with addiction and efforts to beat that addiction in 2014. He bought what he thought was oxycontin from a dealer but it turned out to be fentanyl.

She said her son didn’t stay on his medication long enough.

Schulz said the statistics on the numbers of people dying from various causes related to drug addiction or depression are staggering.

She said 21 people die every day in Canada from substance abuse. In Alberta between four and five people die every day as a result of that problem.

Those who are dying are predominantly young men between the ages of 25 and 40.

Schulz said there’s a need to talk about that but unfortunately, young men are the least likely to do so.

She said a big problem is the stigma associated with those who are depressed and/or drug addicts.

The so-called war on drugs hasn’t worked, Schulz indicated.

She said in light of that, safe consumption sites are needed. People have to accept that addicts will continue to use and if they can’t get safe supplies they’ll take a risk to get what their bodies crave.

Schulz said friends and family have to ensure those who are addicted to drugs never use alone – and ensure you have a naloxone kit handy to reverse drug overdoses and know how to use that kit.

“The truth is that people who use drugs, people like our Danny, are like you and me and they deserve to be healthy and they deserve to be alive and they deserve to have a health future,” she said.

Ayers noted she’s been coming to The Conversation Has To Happen conferences since they first occurred in 2014.

She recalled that during one such event, she spent “a good portion of it” with a person in the lobby who had been “triggered” by what had been said.

“So it’s important, it’s essential that we start talking about these things, get familiar with them so we’re not so afraid of them,” Ayers said.

She urged people who are suffering from depression or other issues but are concerned about the cost to come in anyway.

“I do have an established fee, but I never turn anyone away for counseling,” Ayers said. “Everyone is welcome, regardless of ability to pay.”

Petral distributed naloxone kits to the group and explained how to use them.

He said they contain three vials because a shot only lasts 20 to 90 minutes or so. After that, the opiod, which is still in a user’s system, could come back and “overpower” the effect of the naloxone.

“There’s no such thing as an overdose of naloxone,” he said.

“If you inject one vial you will see improvement.”

Petral told the crowd the needle can go through clothing, just like an EpiPen can.

He told the crowd not to worry if they hit a bone while administering the naloxone.

“You’ll know – they won’t,” he said.