When we think of people affected by the overdose crisis, says Peter Elliott, our first thoughts are usually for the people who have died.
But the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver says so many people are affected — even beyond the victims' families, friends, and the first responders and community workers on the front lines.
"I think we've all been affected," says Elliot.
"People may not have been personally affected, but just living in this province, living in this city where this is going on — this is huge."
Eillot says an interfaith vigil being held today at Christ Church Cathedral will honour the victims of the ongoing overdose crisis, many of whom may not have had public memorials.
'People are burning out'
Meghan McMenamie, the interim site leader for social workers at St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver, says the vigil will also give first responders and community workers an opportunity to honour and mourn the people they've lost to overdoses.
"Often the hospital workers, the frontline workers [and] the community organizations are the only people that our victims are connected with, and we often don't get an opportunity to go to a funeral, to go to a memorial, to honour this person that we've been working with for a very long period of time," McMenamie said.
McMenamie says there is a growing sense of fatigue among the city's first responders as the pressure of dealing with the crisis take its toll.
"Some of the words that have been used to describe it are arrested grief, compassion, fatigue [and] vicarious trauma," she said.
"I was surprised that everybody is saying the same words," she continued. "People are burning out, absolutely."
Parallels to the AIDS crisis
McMenamie says the sheer number of deaths is overwhelming.
"When we say over 900 people died last year, I'm not sure that we can conceptualize what that looks like," she said.
Elliott says those numbers have lead the vigil's organizers to take cues from the response to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s — particularly the naming of victims.
"We're using the image of a vine with leaves on it to name each person, because we think naming is very, very important," he said.
The vigil begins at 1 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral and goes until 7 p.m. The vigil is open to the public. Elliott said though the event is at a church, there will be participants from a number of different faiths, as well as First Nations.
With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.