"Hope Stems" Campaign Spotlights How Opioids Affect The Brain Using Flowers

By Kelly Burch 04/05/19
The floral exhibit coincided with the Macy's Flower Show, and aimed to depict opioid addiction in a different light.
Hope Stems Campaign

While flowers are typically given on joyous occasions—births, graduations or anniversaries—florists around the nation have also found themselves preparing hundreds of thousands of bouquets for the funerals of people who have died from opioid addiction. 

With that in mind, the addiction advocacy group Shatterproof has launched a new initiative, showing a brain made from more than 9,000 carnations, pockmarked by black poppies meant to represent the effects of opioids on the brain. 

The exhibit, called “Hope Stems” was on display in Herald Square in New York City from Tuesday to Thursday (April 2-4). 

The public was invited to remove a poppy from the bouquet, symbolizing the restoration that happens when someone gets treatment and is able to overcome their opioid addiction. 

"As a father who lost his son to addiction, ‘Hope Stems’ gives me so much optimism,” Shatterproof Founder Gary Mendell, whose son died by suicide in 2011 after fighting opioid addiction, told Campaign Live. “This installation will impact how people view those suffering from addiction. It is my sincere wish that this campaign will help end the stigma and encourage those who are suffering to seek treatment. By changing how we think about addiction we can save lives.”

The display is timed to coincide with the Macy’s Flower Show, which runs through Sunday, April 7. 

June Laffey, who works as chief creative officer at McCann Health New York, said that the “Hope Stems” campaign is a powerful way to raise awareness and get attendees at the flower show to think about addiction and ways to provide treatment to people who need it. 

"This campaign has the power to not only change the way people think about opioid addiction, but to save lives,” Laffey said. 

By using the flowers to form a brain, the initiative focused on the fact that addiction is a brain disease, not simply a matter of willpower or choice. 

"Opioid addiction is not a weakness,” Laffey said. “It is a disease that changes the brain. There’s science to prove it. With knowledge comes power. With knowledge comes compassion. With knowledge comes hope.”

She continued, "Hope stems from reducing the stigma and speaking with compassion. So let’s all speak with one voice. The more we reduce stigma, the more people will seek treatment and the more lives will be saved."

After New York, the Hope Stems display will appear in Atlanta from April 22-25 (Monday through Thursday) during the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.