YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN/AP) – A video that is generating a lot of discussion on social media shows a heartbreaking moment for a Youngstown, Ohio, family.
In the viral post, Brenden Clark tells his young son that the boy’s addicted mother died from an overdose. Both are seated at a picnic table when he delivers the news. The boy responds with disbelief before beginning to sob.
In a note accompanying the video, Clark describes himself as a recovering addict and writes that he was sharing it so “addicts with children can see the seriousnes (sic) of our epidemic.”
He says it was not staged and is urging people to “please get help, so our children don’t have to suffer.”
The AP also was unable to authenticate whether the video truly showed the moment a boy learns his mother has died. The video nevertheless prompted a strong reaction online, with some criticizing the post and others praising the man for trying to send a message to fellow addicts.
Clark told our sister station WKBN-TV on Thursday, “That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. For hours I contemplated, ‘How am I gonna tell my son that his mother just died?’”
Clark says he has been clean for more than 90 days.
More than 32 million people have watched the online video since it was posted on Facebook Monday.
“I had an idea to do what I did, not thinking of the attention it could bring, but mainly focusing on the message it would send to people in active addiction,” Clark said.
Widely shared, heartbreaking images of children dealing with the effects of their loved ones’ heroin addiction are raising questions about whether the pictures and videos can scare addicts straight or simply exploit the youngest victims of the epidemic.
The video comes on the heels of other troubling images of children affected by adults with drug problems.
Last month, police in East Liverpool, Ohio, released photos showing a 4-year-old boy in a vehicle with two adults slumped over after overdosing on heroin and fentanyl. The post was shared more than 28,000 times.
One video released by a Massachusetts police department showed a crying toddler trying to wake her mother as she lay on the floor of a store following an overdose.
In both cases, police defended the images as creating awareness of the danger of opiate use.
But one drug treatment agency head says the disturbing images are unlikely to change an addict’s behavior.
“The research isn’t showing that these scare tactics are very effective,” said April Caraway, the executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board in Ohio’s Trumbull County, which, like Youngstown, is part of a region that has been dealing with a spike in overdoses involving heroin and opiates.
Those struggling with addiction already see the dangers of heroin up close, she said.
“They’ve seen the worst of the worst,” Caraway said. “The ones who are battling addiction continue to use.”
She also doubted whether those who have yet to try heroin would be dissuaded from doing so by the posts, saying many younger people see addicts and say, “That’s never going to happen to me.”
Still, Caraway holds out hope that the viral nature of these types of images will reach someone struggling with addiction.
“If it works for one person, then it may be worth it.”
Clark says his son has his moments, but is doing well surrounded by so much love and support.
“I know I have to step up twice as much now. I know that, really, as a parent, I’m the only parent that he has right now.”
Originally published by our Media General sister station WKBN