Students learned about safe ways of partying during St. Patrick's Day at the Harm Reduction Fair in Student Commons. Photo credit: Justin Hancock-Lefebour

A harm reduction fair in the Student Commons on March 15 aimed to educate students on stigmatized issues, as well as get them in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit.

The AC Umbrella Project hosted the event between 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., featuring booths from different departments such as the Students’ Association and health services, as well as Ottawa Public Health.

Each booth gave out stamps. If you could fill a card with four, you’d get a free St. Patrick’s Day shirt.

Sarah Crawford, manager of sexual violence prevention, harm reduction and wellness a the college said this event has been going on for the past six years.

“We always do harm reduction week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day,” Crawford said. “We recognize there are bigger times when students are partying. We try to do a lot of programming around that and that’s why we run it over this week.”

Crawford stresses the importance of partying safely.

“We are just giving out general tips on how to party in the safest way possible,” Crawford said. “Each of the shirts that are giving out, on the back, they have safer partying tips as well.”

Sarah Crawford handing out free T-shirts to student who were able to collect five stamps
Sarah Crawford handed out free T-shirts to students who were able to collect five stamps Photo credit: Justin Hancock-Lefebour

Students who attended learned about alcohol and substance use, harm reduction strategies, ways you can connect with your community and on and off-campus resources and support.

Many students may not know all the resources available to them, or they may feel their issue is too stigmatized. The fair aimed to change this.

“Harm Reduction is any way to reduce the harm that could happen,” said Hannah Brown, a victimology student doing her placement at the Students’ Association, helping to run their booth on Wednesday.

“With drinking, drinking water in between each drink will reduce the harm the next day, or even later that day,” Brown said.

Given that many students at Algonquin are on their own for the first time, Brown said this could lead to students drinking more than they would at home.

Naloxone kits, used to stop an opioid overdose, were also given away for free.

Ryan Jarratt, a pharmacist hosting a booth, explained how to react to an opioid overdose emergency. “Wait 15 seconds before using the nasal spray,” Jarratt said. “If it doesn’t work, you already have 911 on speed dial, they’ll tell you to start chest compression.”

Alex Gava, a professional writing student, says learning about naloxone and attending fairs like this are important.

“There was a naloxone training area which pretty much everyone should know especially in a college community,” Gava said. “Go to the fairs they’re really good. You get free stuff but you also learn a lot.”

Malakai Sukree-Makori, a drawing foundation for animation and illustration student, attended the event because he was curious about what was going on after seeing some of his friends attending.

“I just saw some friends here, and also saw some interesting stuff going on,” Sukree-Makori said. “I learned that there’s a very nice counselling service that I should probably check out.”

Sukree-Makori wasn’t sure what exactly St. Patrick’s Day is about, however. “I know you are supposed to wear green or else you get punched, or slapped, or something,” Sukree-Makori said with a laugh.

Malakai Sukree-Makori holding his winning prize of a Saint Patrick's day T-shirt after collecting five stamps with his friends
Malakai Sukree-Makori holds his winning prize of a St. Patrick's Day t-shirt after collecting five stamps with his friends. Photo credit: Justin Hancock-Lefebour

While Skyler Dale, a developmental service worker student, doesn’t know much about St. Patrick’s Day either, they were drawn to the event by the free items and information.

“There’s so many more resources than I thought there were,” said Dale. “Especially free resources relating to the use of addiction and mental health resources.”

Health Services also appeared at the event. Students can access Health Services for things such as blood tests, emergency contraception, birth control, STI tests, mental health support and more.

“All current students and staff can access our medical resources. We have nurses, doctors, mental health nurses and a partnership with the Royal in our mental health clinic,” said Elizabeth Peno-Hernandez, who managed Health Service’s booth on Wednesday.

Students should bring their provincial health card and student card to each Health Services appointment. The fee for each appointment is $40, though, depending on the service, the appointment may be covered by the student’s insurance.

To access Health Services, students can call the number 613-727-4723 ext. 7222 Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. to book an appointment.

For more on-campus services, Student Support Services. For off-campus services surrounding harm reduction, such as Ottawa Public Health, visit the substance use health section of their website.