Bereaved mothers’ media coverage and public support for harm reduction in Canada

Heather Morris, T. Cameron Wild, Hauwa Bwala, Jakob Koziel, Petra Schulz, Diane Kunyk, Tania Bubela, Elaine Hyshka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Mothers whose child’s death is related to substance use have emerged as prominent and outspoken critics of Canadian drug policy in the news media. We examined the extent to which, and who among, the general public has seen or heard mothers bereaved by substance use in the media; predicted factors associated with exposure to such media; and explored associations with public acceptance of harm reduction. Methods: We analyzed data from a 2018 online panel survey assessing Canadian views on harm reduction, using randomly-drawn provincially representative (N = 4645) and nationally representative (n = 2002) samples of adults. Results: A majority (58.3%) of Canadians had seen or heard media featuring a mother whose child had died from an overdose. Respondents who had an increased level of familiarity with people who use drugs as well as older respondents were significantly more likely to have reported exposure to bereaved mothers’ media. Respondents who had been exposed to bereaved mothers’ media coverage were less likely to respond ‘don’t know/no opinion’ of harm reduction vs. opposing harm reduction. Conclusion: Additional studies using a variety of methods are required to further evaluate the advocacy work being undertaken by mothers bereaved by substance use.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • bereavement
  • Harm reduction
  • media advocacy
  • public opinion


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