When Stephanie White decided to join the Renascent Board of Directors, she was drawn to the opportunity to be part of a larger platform in creating awareness for addiction and mental health on a policy level. As well, it was an honour to work with Laura Bhoi and Sue Jaffe: both titans in the industry by their own right. Stephanie knew with her own extensive experience in the field, the leadership and the many passionate Renascent staff and supporters, that she could help Renascent further build upon its legacy of providing high-quality addiction treatment and mental health support to those in need.
We caught up with Stephanie to get her thoughts on the impact of addiction on women, the specific support that women struggling with addiction need, her vision for the future, and much more.
- You have been a Renascent Board Member for five years. What prompted you to join Renascent in that capacity?
There are many reasons why I chose to join Renascent’s Board. I wanted the opportunity to work with two female titans in the field of mental health and addictions: Laura Bhoi, Renascent’s CEO and Sue Jaffe, Chair of Renascent’s Board.
I also wanted an opportunity to help make change. I’m also a huge believer in second chances. Lord knows I’ve had enough of them myself. Being able to help others rebuild their lives and optimize those second chances means a lot to me.
I wanted to work in an environment that delivers the best care practices to support clients, families, and the loved ones struggling around them. I wanted to be a part of an organization where I could contribute at a leadership level and make a difference through improvements in programs, services, and infrastructure.
- Do you think women living with addiction face specific challenges?
Women tend to play a very specific role in their families and in society. We are nurturers and caregivers and there are often more elements associated with reaching out for help. The shame and guilt we experience can be insurmountable. Other obstacles include possible violence, childcare issues and financial disadvantages, to name a few. These lead to delayed treatment, therefore many women receive support when their disease is in a more advanced stage.
A woman’s biology is also different from a man’s, as women metabolize drugs and alcohol at a different rate. Additionally, people who are struggling with addiction while pregnant risk developing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, as well as other disorders that may affect their unborn.
Renascent is one of the few treatment centres that offers gender-specific treatment which addresses the needs of women and people who identify as women. Through our work we seek to address the physical, emotional, spiritual and biological impacts of addiction that they experience.
- What improvements need to be made to better support women who are struggling with addiction?
Often the challenges associated with women getting well are very complex and therefore solutions for women and those who identify as women must be multi-dimensional. They must include addressing parenting, childcare, environmental, violence, trauma, and financial issues, to name a few.
For example, our communities can benefit from having more housing for women who are in early recovery. Many women leave extremely challenging home environments to enter treatment and need access to safe housing, access to childcare and financial aid after treatment.
- You are a Renascent donor and philanthropist. Why is it important to you, as a woman to play a philanthropic role in the field of addiction and mental health?
By definition, philanthropy is a focus on planning, rebuilding and contributing to the betterment of society. Philanthropy involves much more than making a financial contribution.
Over the decades women have been pushing boundaries and redefining the roles they play in society. As a women, it is important for me to support the progress that we have made so far, and work toward creating an even more inclusive world that allows a growing number of women to realize their potential and lead fulfilling lives. By working to ensure women can receive the support and quality care they need and by challenging the stigma they face with regard to addiction, we are able to enhance the lives of all women and society as a whole.
I think what remains constant is the urgency to create a space that further supports women’s solidarity and empowerment. I am able to make a contribution toward that by giving of my time and effort to Renascent and this field.
- March 8 is International Women’s Day. What is your vision for how women are supported in managing their recovery or those of their loved ones?
I want women to be supported in all aspects of their recovery and I wish for society to get to a place where recovery for women is more easily accessible and widely available.
For example, I spoke about the need for more recovery housing for women. I think women can also benefit from an increase in gender-specific treatment facilities that holistically address women’s specific needs. Many woman come into treatment after experiencing unspeakable traumas. Having a safe place, among other women to heal and grow is very important.
It is usually women who make the initial phone calls to treatment centres when loved ones are struggling with addiction. To further help women, I’d also like more support for the entire family to be available, so that women and their loved ones can have access to the tools and resources, and professionals needed throughout the recovery process.
I am looking forward to a world where addiction is less stigmatized and as a society we become more educated about this disease. I think this is possible as we begin to increase our societal emphasis on mental health and addiction issues.
There is a lot to look forward to, but there is also a lot of work still to be done.
Stephanie White is an addiction specialist with a business background and extensive experience working with clients and families across North America. Stephanie has been on the Renascent Foundation Board since 2017 and is a member of Renascent’s Client Program Quality Committee and their Fundraising and Business Development Committee. She has lectured at universities across Ontario on the topic of addiction and its effects on families. Stephanie has created and facilitated programming on addiction for the Ontario Correctional Institute in Brampton, Ontario.
Stephanie is a graduate of McMaster University and presently holds the following addiction education designations: ICADC, CADC and PTSD levels 1 & 2 from the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre in Toronto, Canada.