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Yukon youth tackle drug abuse in new campaign

The Youth of Today Society has launched a three-year, $309,000 campaign to raise awareness of the negative consequences of drug abuse.

The Youth of Today Society has launched a three-year, $309,000 campaign to raise awareness of the negative consequences of drug abuse.

Inside the society’s drop-in centre, campaign organizers Tia Stone, 21, and Ashley Duchesne, 22, show off their work.

A large banner hangs overhead, with a young man in jeans lying near a concrete wall covered in graffiti, his body flattened as two giant, mechanical mosquitoes suck vials of blood from him.

“The relationship I have with drugs has sucked the life out of me,” the poster reads.

It’s a slick ad campaign that looks like it could have been produced by a leading marketing firm, but it’s actually much more than that.

With Stone and Duchesne at the helm, the campaign is about more than raising awareness. It’s also an exercise in advocacy and community building.

Stone is a recent grad of a graphic design program, so she brought a lot of tech savvy to the table.

Duchesne studied addictions counselling, so the subject matter of the campaign was right up her alley.

Together, they canvassed the Yukon for information about drug abuse and services for drug abusers.

“This is what I went to school for, and it’s what I’m passionate about, so I just wanted to learn more,” said Duchesne. “I was calling Alcohol and Drug Services, and we found of the services that were offered here in the Yukon.”

All of that information will be compiled in a calendar, featuring art from Yukon youth, so help will be right at their fingertips.

In order to get the photographs for the campaign, Stone and Duchesne approached Yukon institutions that see the worst of drug abuse.

They visited the hospital, the inside of an ambulance and a holding cell at the courthouse for photo shoots.

The community was very supportive and wanted to help in any way they could, said Duchesne.

“They were all on board. They loved what we were doing, the message we are trying to send, and it was great.”

Duchesne thanked staff at EMS, Justice and the hospital as well as models Emma Blair, Orion Wanner and Tori Beemer for their help with the photo shoots.

Ryan Leef was on hand to announce the Health Canada funding last week.

He commended Stone and Duchesne for their innovative messaging around drug abuse.

“It’s not language that’s being used across the country, but it is a reality that people addicted to illicit drugs or prescription drugs do have a relationship with them, albeit a negative one,” said Leef in an interview this week.

“We need to break that relationship and we need to understand that that’s what it is in order to be aggressive with our strategies and tackle it.”

The Youth of Today Society has been advocating for young people with addictions since 1999.

About 25 youth come frequently to the society’s Angel’s Nest drop-in centre, with a total of about 80 youth involved with the group, said Vicky Durrant, the executive director.

Many of them struggle with addictions.

Raising awareness is great, but it doesn’t do much if the youth can’t get the help they need, said Durrant.

She’s hoping for a top-notch addictions treatment facility for youth in the Yukon in the coming years.

The territory’s existing 28-day in-patient addictions treatment program serves adults 25 and older.

The government has promised new services for youth in conjunction with a new planned complex destined to replace the current Sarah Steele Building.

Details on what that will look like are scant.

Durrant said she hopes it will be a first-class facility that will attract young people from across northern and rural Canada.

“We have such an amazing community, with regard to their hearts, wanting to see a change,” said Durrant. “There’s so many people in this community that are so wanting to see a healthier community and to help people. People that are addicted to drugs, they’re in pain, and people don’t just do this because they have nothing to do. They have a lot of pain.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at