The “Big Rock” along the Old Island Highway that serves as a welcome to Campbell River is covered in graffiti.
Among all the tags that have been painted on over the years is the name “Masters.” It’s only been there a short time though – the work of a friend of a young woman named Elann Christine Masters, who died in early March of an intentional overdose at age 30.
For her mother Tracy Masters, the death was the latest tragedy in the family, one with roots in previous deaths, such as the suicide of her first husband in 2006 after battling alcoholism and mood disorders, and the death of her oldest son from a brain aneurysm in 2010 when he was 25.
“I myself was suicidal,” she says. “You just can’t comprehend it until you’re there.”
Her daughter had faced substance abuse and mental health issues before, having gone through several treatment centres, and seemed to be doing well early in the year.
“She almost had a year completely clean, she went to the gym every day, she was like a total 180, completely different person,” she says.
Elann had a relapse though in January and was about three weeks into a 28-day treatment program when she checked out unexpectedly. Masters could not find her or find out exactly what happened until it was too late. Now, she wants to prevent others from falling through the cracks.
“It kills me as a parent that she died alone in a hotel room,” she says.
With the help of her sister, Kristy Masters, she has launched a local group called Masters of Hope aimed at providing outreach for people in danger of succumbing to addictions or mental health issues.
“We want to put the word out there,” says Kristy. “We’ve got to open up this can of worms.”
Both sisters see a need for more resources, saying that people can go to mental health services but may have to wait for six weeks, a situation that does not work for someone during a crisis.
“The last thing you want to hear is ‘You can come in six weeks,’” Tracy says. “We need a system to fill those gaps.”
On Tuesday night, they held an inaugural meeting at the Big Rock, where the family name now emblazons the rock itself, so people could come and get more information as well as figure out their next steps.
“I think we’re just gonna see how many people want to come out and want to reach out,” Kristy adds. “There’s just not enough support staff, and that’s what we want to open this group to.”
Tracy Masters points to a brochure she found for the Campbell River Community Action Team, which works with people facing addictions, a group she had not heard of until recently, so her hope is to work with such groups to better connect themselves and with the people they want to help.
Already, they’ve made contacts. Sheryl Thompson, who works with homeless people in the community, is one of those who responded after seeing something on social media and was on hand for the get-together on Tuesday night.
“It’s tied together…. I’ll be there to support and get more information,” she says.
The group has set up a Facebook page for people in the community interested in joining Masters of Hope.