St. Patrick’s Day-themed event highlights substance abuse awareness at Algonquin College

The Umbrella Project wanted students to be safe on St. Patrick's Day
Photo: Caroline Kirkey
Lea Ntay (left), Shelina Syed (right), and Shannon O'Donohue (back) are peer support workers who hosted the Umbrella Project event.

Drinking, gaming, and having fun are typical activities of St. Patrick’s Day festivities, but for some, they serve as a cautionary reminder to exercise care.

In the E-building near Starbucks, Algonquin College held an event called the Umbrella Project on March 14. The event aimed to help students who are dealing with substance abuse.

The Umbrella Project is dedicated to helping students who suffer from addiction to drugs, alcohol and other substances. The project also includes workshops, training and support services.

Organizations from around Ottawa had booths for students to talk to people about substance abuse. The booths had flyers, pamphlets, frisbees and stickers.

The event was decorated for the theme of St. Patrick’s Day.

“Around that time there’s a lot of use of alcohol and different substances. It’s very important to be able to promote it and, we did it St. Patrick’s Day-themed to get people’s attention and get them involved,” said Shelina Syed, a peer support worker at Algonquin College.

One organization at the Umbrella Project event was Rideauwood Addiction. Xavier Frantz, a student studying to be a social service worker, is doing a placement at Rideauwood.

“We are an agency in Ottawa that provides cost free-counselling services to people experiencing addiction or substance use as well as family, loved ones, and close individuals to people experiencing addiction or substance abuse,” said Frantz.

The Rideauwood booth had a poster board with shamrock cutouts that had statements on them. For each shamrock, students had to move it to either the “myth” section or the “fact” section of the board.

“It is coming up on St. Patrick’s Day so there is a big drinking culture around that,” said Frantz.

Ottawa Public Health’s Addictions and Substance Use Health Team was another organization at the event, educating and helping students on the topic of substance abuse.

OPH helps people dealing with addiction to opioids, cannabis, alcohol, tobacco and other addictive substances. They also have services for harm reduction, community resources and mental health. These services are open to anyone in need.

Gerrard Desormeaux, a peer support worker for the Mamidosewin Centre on campus, talked about his own struggles.

“The first step to helping and solving the problem is to create enough awareness that people don’t feel ashamed of asking for help because I feel like that’s the biggest barrier of substance abuse and why it is so widespread,” said Desormeaux.

The Umbrella Project has been around for many years at the college.

“It’s meant to be called as an umbrella term for all of the substances and alcohol because it’s a whole wide range of things and it’s all just under this…umbrella,” said Syed.

Anyone dealing with or anyone who knows someone dealing with substance abuse can contact the organizations above.

You can reach the Mamidosewin Centre at (613) 727-4723, ext. 7168 and the Welcome Centre at Algonquin College at (613) 727-4723, ext. 7200.

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