Windsor teen's apparent overdose death circulated on social media

Community members in Windsor are asking for people to talk more about the issue of drug use, rather than sweeping it under the rug.

'I think that people need to stop shaming people,' says Lisa Valente

Josh Chouinard, 17, died of an apparent drug overdose on Monday, May 27, 2019. (Josh Chouinard/Facebook)

Josh Chouinard was 17 when he died of an apparent opioid overdose on Monday. He is being remembered as a regular teen who lost his way.

"Raise him up. He was the sweetest boy," his mother Maria Chouinard wrote on Facebook. 

On the night Josh was using drugs, he was with peers who recorded his overdose and posted it on social media, according to Lisa Valente, who saw screenshots circulate.

History of cyber bullying

Valente met Josh a couple of years ago when he was purchasing a computer from her family. She feels he had just wanted to be accepted by people.

She described him as having been "tormented by different groups of people," not just teens but also adults, on social media over the past year.

"I've seen some horrible things posted about him," said Valente.

Lisa Valente, who knew Josh Chouinard through her son, says Chouinard was just a regular teenager who was going through a difficult time. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

The response to the circulated screenshots surrounding Josh's apparent overdose was disheartening for her and for Brandon Bailey, member of Windsor Overdose Prevention Society.

Bailey said there were comments that said the teen "got what he deserved" for using drugs.

"It was so dehumanizing and it was disgusting," said Bailey.

"People have this mentality where they think that one life is more valuable than another."

More conversations needed

In Maria's Facebook post mourning the loss of her son, she mentioned the importance of naloxone as a life-saving measure.

Valente urged parents to have their kids trained on using naloxone, and to also carry the kits with them.

Josh's death should be a way to open up the conversation around drug use and overdoses, according to Bailey and Valente.

"It's very swept under the rug," said Bailey. Valente echoed those sentiments.

She said people don't talk about these struggles enough because of the stigma.

"I think that people need to stop shaming people. I think that people need to stop thinking that it can't happen to them," said Valente.

"He just needed to get through that rough patch of trying to find who he was and fit in with a circle of people who would've accepted him."

With files from Amy Dodge