Accounting for nearly 80 per cent of illicit toxic drug deaths in British Columbia, men are dangerously over-represented in this category.
After finding a link between the men with jobs in the trades sector and high rates of substance abuse, White Rock and South Surrey’s Tides of Change Overdose Prevention and Response Community Action Team have created a short film featuring men in the trades and construction industry.
“There is a hyper-masculine culture often (in trades) and people often have pre-existing challenges that result in people reaching for substances to cope,” said George Passmore, manager counselling and substance use services at Sources Community Resources.
The film — Building Hope: Substance Use in the Trades — features four men who have worked in the trades industry and have experienced substance addiction sharing their stories. After reaching out for help, Trevor Botkin, Rob Tournour, Kale Moth and Daniel Snyder are no longer battling their addictions alone.
The film was launched during a meeting with the team who made the film, with Moth and Tournour also in attendance via Zoom on Thursday, July 28.
Inspiration for the film project came from Passmore four years ago, after he attended a funeral for an iron-worker who lost his life to overdose.
From there, the idea to bring attention to the link between trades workers —predominantly men — and substance abuse was born. The film was created in hopes of reducing the stigma surrounding mental health support for men and to raise awareness about the resources that are available for those who are struggling.
During the short film, Moth detailed how he grew up in Saskatchewan. There was not too much to do, so he got into substance use at an early age. This habit was only exacerbated when he began working on oil rigs, he said.
An early start was also the case for Tournour, founder of Rob Tourour Masonry in Victoria.
“By 15, I realized that I quite enjoyed the feeling of intoxication, of drinking and it became a big part of my life…. Inevitably, unwinding turned to partying pretty hard,” he said, adding that he was leading a double life because nobody around him knew about his addiction, he masked it so successfully.
“Disconnection from friends and family,” due to long hours, was Moth’s reality. This, he said, mixed with access to a higher income was a recipe for disaster for his addiction.
Moth’s substance use cost him his job at one point. Driving one morning, still intoxicated from the night before, he fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of the vehicle.
“I essentially drove the truck and trailer with equipment on it into the ditch,” Moth explained, adding that because it was his employer’s truck and equipment, the company filed the incident and lost money because of the damages and he was let go.
Now, Moth is four-years sober and helps other people in the oil and construction industries in Saskatchewan to gain access to resources for help if they are battling addiction.
Tournour said that he was thankful to find the support that he needed after battling the darkness of his addiction alone. Now, he is sober and also helps his employees who get involved in substance use as “an ode to my brother, who’s been gone for a few years now, but he’s who we’re reaching to.
“Vince was a carpenter, he was a wonderful man, he loved his job, he loved his trade and he was passionate about it.”
Tournour shared that during his career, Vince suffered two separate injuries. Doctors’ prescriptions for morphine and Oxycodone, were the root of his addiction and led him to die “in a pretty lonely, dark hotel room.”
“To me, the cause of death is also the system and the Worksafe system – how it operates and how there just wasn’t support. There were times in his last couple of years where (Vince) tried for help and there weren’t treatment centres available for him because of the prescribed opioids he was still on,” Tournour said.
Tides for Change notes that employers have a legal obligation to accommodate employees who are experiencing addiction and mental health concerns.
Matthew Huot, project co-ordinator of the Community Action Team would like to see the short film shown to employees in trades during safety meetings and at other opportunities.
B.C.’s chief coroner stated in a news release Thursday, June 9, that a safer drug supply is among the many changes needed in this province to reduce the number of people dying as a result of the illicit toxic drug supply.
Safe drug supply, monitored consumption sites, taking drugs with a trusted person who can help if overdose occurs and decriminalization of drug use and possession are among the recommendations of B.C. Coroners Service, which Passmore echoed.