It’s a challenge that affects our whole society, and requires our whole society to solve.
That is the key message the Bulkley Valley FASD Committee, which is launching a poster campaign this week for FASD month.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are a range of birth defects that can occur when mothers drink alcohol during pregnancy.
About one in 100 babies born in Canada will grow up with an FASD, says committee member Nathalie Brassard. Given that about 40 per cent of pregnancies are unplanned, she said, all kinds of mothers are affected.
Many are still unclear on a key fact—there is no safe amount to drink while pregnant. In the past, Brassard said, attention has tended to focus how to diagnose FASDs or on blaming mothers who drink.
“Our approach is much more about looking at how each of us has a role,” she said.
If a woman we know is traumatized, for example, she said we need to ask what kind of support we can provide so they don’t have to resort to drinking.
And if we know someone affected by an FASD, she said, we need to ask how we can change our behaviour to make their lives easier.
“We all drink for different reasons,” said Juanita Hagman, another committee member.
At a party, a woman might feel she needs to drink to be social. And she may not want to say she is pregnant to refuse a drink.
Sometimes an excuse can work, Brassard said, adding that saying you’re on antibiotics usually does the trick.
But really, said Hagman, we shouldn’t need such excuses.
The 25-member committee includes a wide range of community service groups, including people in health care, law, education and employment. That reflects the nature of the issue, said Brassard, which has to be addressed in many places throughout our society.
To that end, the committee will run a series of workshops this fall, to give employers, teachers and any other interested groups some strategies for dealing with FASD.
Anyone who wants to host a workshop can get in touch with the committee—the workshops are free if held from Telkwa to Moricetown. There is a small travel cost to workshops held further afield.
In February, the Bulkley Valley FASD Committee will host a major conference on the issue.
Dr. Gabor Mate, a well-respected author on issues of addiction and trauma, will give the keynote address.