“Storywalk” Brings Remembrance and Healing

The Mystic Valley Public Health Coalition, along with representatives from the Town of Reading hosted the 9th annual–and first Reading-hosted–Recovery, Remembrance event on the night of September 28th, 2022 on the town common in order to celebrate and honor the lives lost to substance abuse and suicide in surrounding towns and cities.

The town common was adorned in purple and gold flags, one flag each for the 735 lives lost to drug addiction and 171 deaths from suicide in the seven communities. This was for this year’s new event called The Storywalk. These statistics represent the seven communities involved in the event:  Reading, Wakefield, Stoneham, Winchester, Melrose, Malden, and Medford. 

Along with the flags, this year’s event featured signs displaying the individual stories of those lost as well as those in recovery. This acted as a way for attendees to connect with the flags in a way they would not have been able to in the past.

One of the biggest challenges to people getting treatment for addiction is stigma…

— State Senator Jason Lewis

When asked about what she hoped the event would accomplish, Erica McNamara of the Reading Coalition for Prevention and Support stated, “The goal of the event is to really bring our seven communities together to bring light to this issue because a lot of people don’t want to talk about a topic that’s a little bit hard like substance misuse and suicide.” 

In attendance was State Senator Jason Lewis.  State Senator Lewis was asked why he thought the event was so important.  “One of the biggest challenges to people getting treatment for addiction is stigma because people feel ashamed so that leads to isolation and people just don’t get the care they need.  It’s a disease just like diabetes or anything else and the way you treat a disease is you need to get health care, in this case, mental health care. Events like this are very important to help communicate that message,” said the state senator.

The air in the Reading Town Common was heavy on Wednesday night, but the tension was well worth the message of support that familiar community faces conveyed to the people of Reading, as well as the surrounding towns and cities.