News Release

Latter-day Saint David Campbell Addresses Stigma of Homelessness in New Film ‘Low’

Dr. David Campbell, a physician-researcher at the University of Calgary and member of the Eau Claire Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, knows a few things about working with socially disadvantaged populations. In connection with the Calgary Diabetes Advocacy Committee (CDAC), he recently launched the film “Low,” focused on the lived experiences of people who struggle with diabetes while experiencing homelessness. The film’s world premiere was held on October 26, 2023, as part of the Diabetes Canada/Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professional Conference at Vascular 2023 in Montreal, Quebec.

Campbell became interested in working with vulnerable populations midway through his undergraduate studies when he took a break to volunteer as a missionary for the Church. He moved to South Florida and worked with the Haitian diaspora community. Campbell said the experience changed the rest of his life: “It led me down a road of being interested in advocating for those who are not well served by the medical system.”

Collaborative Efforts

Campbell began the project by recruiting a group of individuals with lived experience of diabetes and homelessness, who became the CDAC. “[We] trained them to become co-researchers,” he said. “In our work together, they told us stories of how they faced stigma related to both homelessness and diabetes and wished to do something to reduce these stigmas.” Campbell emphasized that this group is very passionate and dedicated to leading projects that will improve the experiences of others in similar situations.

It is so critical to have the voice of people with lived experience reflected in projects like this,” Campbell said. “I have learned that even though I work with this population, the fact that I have not been in their shoes means that I can never truly know their perspective. The co-researchers I work with have opened my eyes to so many issues that I never could have imagined.”

Other collaborators on the project included Pluto Pictures (a local film production company) and the Calgary Drop-In Centre (Canada’s largest homeless shelter). The project was funded by Diabetes Canada.

Challenging Stigma

Our overarching goal of the film was to open people’s eyes to the challenges of managing one’s diabetes while experiencing homelessness and the stigma that one endures in this position,” said Campbell. “The film hints at many of the issues people with diabetes experiencing homelessness face on any given day. People who are living with diabetes while also experiencing homelessness are often extremely resilient and resourceful individuals who are managing an impossible situation. They are navigating difficulties around stigma, medication and food access, and multiple health-care appointments, all while worrying about where they will sleep for the night and trying to secure longer-term stable housing.”

Campbell thinks the key message people will take away from “Low” is that life is very challenging for those who are trying to manage diabetes while experiencing homelessness. Campbell said, “It would be ideal if everyone approached people with compassion and empathy. Sometimes diabetes symptoms can appear like intoxication, but it’s important that people know there could very well be something else going on with people. It’s important to give them the benefit of the doubt and not jump to conclusions or make assumptions.”

Raising awareness about the effects of stigma is an important theme in the film. Campbell emphasized that stigma connected to homelessness “can include judgment, shame and negative attitudes towards poverty, drug use, unemployment and houselessness and can lead to labelling of people experiencing homelessness as lazy, dirty, uneducated, worthless or hopeless.”

Campbell explained that stigma connected to diabetes encompasses blame (including feeling that individuals bring their diabetes upon themselves), judgment (including mistaking insulin use as illicit drug use), or mistaking hypo- or hyperglycemic states for inebriation.

The combination of homelessness and diabetes stigma can be profoundly demoralizing, compelling individuals to hide their diabetes to avoid judgment and stigma. However, this concealment may have lasting long-term consequences on their health, as those affected are unable to be as proactive as they could be to manage their diabetes.

Film Screenings

Since its premiere, “Low” also screened with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on November 9, 2023. The first public screening of “Low” will be on December 7, 2023, at the Plaza Theatre, 1133 Kensington Road NW, Calgary, Alberta, as part of Science in the Cinema, sponsored by the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine and Libin Cardiovascular Institute.

Campbell said approximately 500 people have seen “Low” so far, and the positive reception during its dissemination has generated numerous requests to organize private screenings for other organizations, allowing others to share in the film’s exploration of the challenges and stigma faced by those with lived experience of homelessness.

Campbell said he and his team are hoping to share the film with shelters throughout Calgary and across Canada. They will be showing “Low” to various professional groups and shelter workers, both virtually and in-person, through the rest of 2023 and in 2024.

As for the impact of showing this film, Campbell noted, “We are currently surveying and interviewing audience members to better understand what effect the film is having in the community. Anecdotally, audience members who have seen it have been making donations to shelters and/or requesting showings and panel discussions for their clinic or shelter.”

Register to view the first public screening of “Low” on December 7, 2023.

View the trailer and find out about future in-person and online screening events.

Contributed by Heather Cameron

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