City’s first public overdose memorial to take place

Friends and family of people who lost someone to a drug-related death in Leeds will remember them with a special event on International Overdose Awareness Day.

The memorial will take place from 10.30am leading up to a minute’s silence at 11am, in Penny Pocket Park, opposite Leeds Minster on 31 August. Speakers will reflect on those they have lost, and people will be asked if they wish to write memory on a yellow heart.

Observed on August 31 every year, International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) seeks to create better understanding of overdose, reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths, and create change that reduces the harms associated with drug use.

Forward Leeds, the city’s alcohol and drug service have organised the event near their hub in the city centre.

Service Manager Helen Rodgers said: “By attending, the people of Leeds are joining a global movement for understanding, compassion, and change.

“We want to focus on who these people really were – they were someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister. What made them special. We want to recall the happy memories that family and friends will have of them, not just as person who used drugs or as an overdose statistic.”

Across West Yorkshire there were 243 deaths from drug poisoning in 2021, the last year for which figures are available. Drug-related deaths in Leeds doubled between 2011 and 2021 and 638 people died from drug poisoning in the city during that ten-year period.

Forward Leeds will be collecting people’s yellow heart memories of loved ones and displaying them across their sites on the days following Overdose Awareness Day.

The service will also be sharing messages on its social media channels with tips on preventing an overdose and advice around what to do if you suspect someone is having an overdose.