Michael Roy, Peer Navigator.
Recognising a participant’s (because I am part of a research study) change in behaviour and also understanding their triggers has been the most important part of my overdose prevention work. If I can see a change in behaviour and mood it gives me the opportunity to ask what problems are occurring and ask the person to come and talk to me about how they are feeling. As well as discussing the issues they are having, I also want to try and lighten the mood, to make them laugh and smile, and try to take their thoughts away from relapsing. From my experience, this generally works. They are laughing by the time we have finished speaking, and they say ‘thanks Michael – that’s really helped and that’s put me in a positive mood.’
Prevention is about knowing the person you are working with and having that solid relationship – this helps them to feel comfortable discussing how they are feeling. It’s also connected to harm reduction and having the right services in place to try to prevent people from relapsing and putting them in massive danger of overdosing. I also ask participants if they want me to contact the mental health practitioner or worker at another service to discuss any issues they are facing – this is another layer of prevention.
It’s important that we remember the importance of relationships, of being available to talk and listen when people need it…
Here’s an example of the kind of work I do: one of my participants who suffers from severe sleep deprivation (related to his experience of trauma) looked really low at one point. He also suffers from bi-polar disorder so his moods often change. At a handover meeting another member of staff said that he had seen him crying. I went to see him and asked him to come for a chat. I know why this participant suffers from sleep deprivation and know this had led to him relapsing previously. He would go back to using heroin just so he could rest and sleep. He told me he had thought of using or buying some diazepam. I sat with him for a couple of hours and reminded him of all the progress he had made. He said ‘yes you’re right.’ I made contact with his mental health practitioner who made an appointment the next day. This meant we could all sit together to keep him positive and focused, and that we could both listen to the issues he was facing. We also discussed his other options, rather than turning to drugs.
I have taken participants to alcohol/drug support appointments and got them naloxone pens and shown them how to use them. If people (as well as those around them) know how to administer it then that obviously reduces the risk of loss of life. Providing naloxone is a really important part of overdose prevention but, as I’ve discussed here, prevention goes back much further than that. It’s important that we remember the importance of relationships, of being available to talk and listen when people need it, and of seeing everyone as individuals when thinking about how we prevent overdoses.