DreannaDreanna has been clean since she was 18. She’s 22. She figures that if she were still using, she’d be dead.

Dreanna started struggling with mental health issues when she was about 10 years old.

“All of a sudden I went from being a kid to real life and all I could think about was ending my life. I don’t know where the switch happened. There was no dramatic event that happened.”

Dreanna grew up in a middle class home with loving parents. “I had an amazing home life. My parents are loving, beautiful people. I had everything.”

She was scared to tell her parents about her struggles. “I was so lost. I was just a kid.”

She would talk to her friends and to school counsellors. She was astonished to find out how many of her friends struggled as well.

“When drugs came in, I was about 13 and it hit pretty hard. I thought I’d found the solution to my struggles with mental health, depression, anxiety and suicidal ideations.”

Things got “ugly” fast. She was expelled from school and left home.

“I moved into a youth apartment and that’s when everything really got ugly because I didn’t have anyone to be accountable to.”

Dreanna figures that a United Way funded agency, the Foundry, saved her life.

Having that sense of community and the compassion she was shown turned her life around. “When I don’t keep secrets, then I get connections from other people and then it doesn’t feel as scary and as daunting and a thing that I have to sweep under the rug.”

She went down the path of recovery, through detox, counselling, and now Dreanna helps others struggling with addictions and mental health issues. She also shares her story, especially with youth, to hopefully evoke change.

Her goal is to get her Masters in Social Work, specializing in Addictions and Mental Health. She wants to work on the front line and in policy.

“By no means am I cured,” she says. “But I have solutions…I have tools.”

In 2018, 87% of the 1,510 overdose deaths in BC involved illicit fentanyl.

“I lost 3 people last week. I don’t want it to be normal to look on Facebook and see R.I.P.”

Her advice to other young people? “Surround yourself. Don’t be alone. Make it through 15 minutes. Stay in your shoes.”

United Way is tackling the opioid public health crisis through education and outreach, helping those struggling with addictions, and educating others on how they can be part of the solution.

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