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Why men are getting free treats at a Coquitlam coffee shop tomorrow

No one wants to talk about men's mental health, but maybe these Tri-City events will create some awareness and understanding.
Jessica Michalofsky, whose son Aubrey died from poisoned drugs last summer, is running across B.C. to promote awareness about the need for a safe drug supply. She’ll be at a community awareness event at Lions Park in Port Coquitlam on Sunday, June 18.| Darren Stone, Times Colonist photo

Guys — and their mental health — are the focus of a series of events in the Tri-Cities this week as local community advocates work to stop stigma.

Goody bags will be handed out to men visiting the Coquitlam Starbucks at Barnet Highway tomorrow to mark Men’s Mental Health Day, Tuesday (June 13).

They’ll be handed a bag containing something sweet, something salty, something grounding, such as a rock with a positive message, socks and information about local mental health resources.

“It’s a token appreciation for the men in our community,” said Roxanne Saxon, program coordinator with the Tri-Cities Community Action Team (TCCAT).

With Father’s Day rapidly approaching, Saxon said it’s important to remember that men face mental challenges, too, but often it’s a dark secret that no one wants to talk about.

What’s more mental health concerns can lead to substance use issues and Saxon said it’s important for men to know they can reach out.

“At TCCAT we have been trying to shift our focus to recognize men and the stigma around mental health and we are also seeing a high rate of death [from overdoses] and people aren’t talking about it."

Substance use experience

To give the public a close-up view of men's experiences — and create understanding — there's also a photo exhibit at the Outlet in Port Coquitlam (1100 - 2253 McAllister Ave.)

Called A Day in the Life Of, it features photographs taken by men with substance use experience and will be on from now through to June 27.

“We know these issues [mental health and substance use] are deeply interconnected, and made worse by pervasive negative and stigmatizing messaging. This project will humanize those with lived / living experience,” said Saxon.

(The group is also encouraging people to tell their stories by reaching out via [email protected].)

Also on display is a collection of youth art on the issues of substance use.

It was created by kids participating in an after school art journaling program coordinated by ACCESS Youth. (To inquire about the program, email [email protected]).

Moms speak out on stopping the harm

Finally, on Sunday, June 18, TCCAT will be holding a community resource event from 1–4 p.m. at Lions Park in Port Coquitlam, featuring speakers, information and naloxone training.

Speakers will include safe drug supply advocate, Jessica Michalofsky, who is running across B.C. to advance her cause, and Marlyse Williams, whose actor son died of a toxic drug overdose.

The events are being held this week as the Tri-City area continues to experience a toxic drug overdose crisis.

Saxon said it’s a pervasive myth that men shouldn’t talk about their mental health and that needs to change.

“How can we help them and how can they get involved. How can we do things differently in our communities?”

Overdose deaths mostly male

So far this year as many as eight deaths have occurred due to toxic drugs, in the Tri-Cities.

According to the BC Coroners’ service:

  • 70 per cent of those who died of toxic drugs were aged 30–59 and 77 per cent were male.
  • 83 per cent of unregulated drug deaths occurred indoors.

Find out more about TCCAT and these events on their Facebook page.