Tracy Masters (middle) and her niece Kristy (to Tracy’s right) lead the first International Overdose Awareness Walk as it heads out from the longhouse at Robert Ostler Park along the highway, making its way through downtown and back to the park on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Masters of Hope bringing hope to mental health issues on Vancouver Island

Personal experience inspires family to inspire a safe space to discuss mental health and addiction

A Campbell River family continues to spread awareness about mental health and addictions within the community.

For Kristy Masters and her aunt Tracy Masters, the cause hits close to home.

Tracy lost her first husband to suicide in 2006 following his battle with alcoholism and mood disorders. Her oldest son died of a brain aneurysm in 2010 when he was 25. Her daughter, Elann, died last March of an intentional drug overdose.

“We were all grieving,” said Masters. “My poor aunty. She lost her whole family.”

She suggested they start a support group for people with mental health and addiction concerns.

“Just bring awareness and let people talk,” she said.

Masters said the name for the group rolled off her tongue: Masters of Hope. They had their first meeting in May 2019. A Mirror reporter, along with dozens of others showed up at the Big Rock on the foreshore, beneath the spray-painted “Masters” a friend of Elann’s immortalized on the rock.

On July 1, they entered Campbell River’s Canada Day parade and on Aug. 31, they organized the community’s first International Overdose Awareness Walk through downtown. More than 40 people took part in their second event.

“We just did this march around the downtown core,” said Masters. “It was pretty impressive.”

Meetings continued. Masters said in the summer there would be anywhere from 15 to 20 people attending. Since they’ve moved to meeting inside, their numbers have dwindled, but there’s still more than five people showing up each week. It’s a safe space.

“Mental health is such a huge, huge subject from depression to people that suffer with anxiety,” she said. “It’s more about stopping the stigma. It’s reaching out to them and letting them know it’s OK. We can talk about this.”

According to the most recent data from the BC Coroner’s Office, between Jan. 1, 2019 and Oct. 31, 2019, there were 26 reported deaths from illicit drug toxicity in North Vancouver Island.

Masters of Hope has grown organically, filling a need in the community. It’s also thrust Tracy into the spotlight. She’s been invited to speak at various functions and their message is travelling further afield.

A couple of people from Nanaimo attended a recent meeting. They’re interested in starting up their own group down-Island and wanted to learn from Masters of Hope.

“We just had an idea, and we put it out there and here we are,” said Masters.

Tracy is now part of the Community Action Team in Campbell River and there are plans for more community initiatives.

Now, nearly a year after Masters of Hope began, the Facebook group is up to more than 320 members. Masters said they’re just starting to see a shift in attitude around the stigma and Masters of Hope has no plans of slowing down.

“It’s very empowering and inspirational knowing that we’re doing something good,” said Masters, “just knowing that we’re going to make a difference.”

They meet on the first and third Tuesday of the month from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m at the Campbell River Library. You can also find them on Facebook at Masters of Hope.

If you feel like you are in crisis or are considering suicide, please call the Crisis Centre BC suicide hotline at 1-800-784-2433.

Other resources include: Canada Suicide Prevention Service at Toll free: 1-833-456-4566. You can also text 45645 or visit the online chat service at crisisservicescanada.ca.

Some warning signs include suicidal thoughts, anger, recklessness, mood changes, anxiety, lack of purpose, helplessness and substance abuse.

B.C. overdoses

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