A youth-led group in Saskatoon is working to destigmatize substance use disorders and humanize people addicted to crystal meth.
Chokecherry Studios, a non-profit organization offering arts-based programming and mentorship, published the Blank Book in November 2021. The 69-page document compiles stories from anonymous community members in Saskatoon who have experience with crystal meth use.
Jade Creelman, a Saskatoon-based artist and lead coordinator of the project, says that the goal of the Blank Book is to share stories about the crystal meth crisis in Saskatoon that provide underrepresented perspectives on addiction.
“Storytelling is our way [as humans] of sharing our experiences with others, and if we can’t share our experiences then we don’t know what other people are going through,” Creelman said.
The project was entirely youth-led, which Creelman says is appropriate considering that a large number of those affected by the crystal meth crisis in Saskatoon are young adults.
“Crystal meth is affecting people that are younger and younger, and some of the youth at Chokecherry Studios — myself included — have been personally affected in such a big way that it can’t just be ignored,” Creelman said. “It’s changed our entire lives, and it’s not necessarily by choice.”
To collect submissions, Chokecherry Studios worked with partner organizations, namely Prairie Harm Reduction and The Lighthouse, to reach people who might be willing to share their stories. A total of 40 submissions were received.
“The Blank Book shows that it is a broad range of people [affected by crystal meth use]. Our youngest [contributor] was 13 years old, and our oldest [contributor] was 60 years old,” Creelman said. “We just want to show that it can be anyone.”
The project was launched in partnership with the Crystal Meth Working Group of the Safe Community Action Alliance, a community-based organization with a demonstrated interest in issues related to safety and well-being.
In 2020, the Crystal Meth Working Group published a detailed report listing 29 strategic actions for responding to the crystal meth crisis in Saskatoon. Creelman says the Blank Book project sought to address some of the strategic actions outlined in the report, including the development of a community awareness campaign.
“We want to bring more attention to this issue because no one is doing anything about it,” Creelman said.
The report also includes a list of recommendations developed by a group of Indigenous youth, including the late Brandon “Smiley” Applegate — a Saskatoon youth advocate and volunteer to whom the Blank Book is dedicated.
Creelman says that Applegate’s legacy directly influenced the project.
“Amplifying the voices of others is the centre of this project. It’s about collecting [stories] and bringing them all into one place — there’s really no other way to describe it.”
To view the Blank Book in its entirety, visit chokecherry.ca