There are numerous stigmas in society, such as mental health issues, that contribute to many young people feeling alienated and not being accepted and understood by their peers. This Program encourages students to be agents of change by learning about the stigmas that cause others to be seen as ‘different.’ Students learn about the trauma caused by bullying and recognize the negative consequences. Most importantly, youth are prompted to take action against stigma in their school and as part of their daily lives. The Stigma-Free Zone Program also offers community presentations in workplaces, non-profit societies, and additional organizations in Metro Vancouver and Victoria, B.C.

The Stigma-Free Zone School Presentations Program, sponsored by Coast Mental Health, launched in schools in March, 2016 building on the former Bipolar Babes Stigma Stomp presentations for grades 7-12. Since 2010, the Society has delivered classroom presentations to nearly 10,000 students across British Columbia. The Stigma-Free Zone Program offers students the opportunity to “claim” their classroom, and eventually their school, as a ‘Stigma-Free Zone.’

Stigma-Free Zone School Presentations’ Summary

  • Classroom Presenters share an introduction on the topic of mental health stigma with powerful impacting images surrounding the subject of mental illness. They encourage discussion among students and initially engage them on the topic of mental illness stigma.
  • Presenters share their personal and inspiring story of living with and managing mental illness, which emphasizes that we all have struggles, but no matter what our challenges, we can live extraordinary lives.
  • The conversation about stigma is expanded upon as Presenters educate youth on the various stigmas in society with impacting images and stories of inspiring people who face stigma, but have demonstrated outstanding resiliency.
  • The Program provides a take away Stigma-Free Zone Rack Card that directs youth to our website, specifically the Help Page via a QR link that can be scanned with their cell phones to access resources. This innovative rack card is a tool that encourages youth to continue the conversation about stigma with their parents and friends.
  • The presentation has a brief Q&A period where students are open to ask questions and engage in discussion.
  • Youth complete a brief survey and share their hand-written reflections on their learnings from the presentation. Our Classroom Presenter follows up with teachers and all student feedback is submitted to them, but remains anonymous to allow for genuine reflections. Teachers also complete a Program Score Card, which provides an opportunity for feedback and evaluation.
  • Students are encouraged to take the Stigma-Free Test after their school day is complete and they have had the rest of the day to ponder on their learnings. This allows youth to make a comparison from date of completion to visiting the test at a later date and discern whether their views about stigma have changed.
  • Students are given a ’10 Tips for Mental Health Management’ hand-out to ensure they reflect on ways to stay mentally well.

Meet Your Stigma-Free Zone Presenters

Classroom Presenter, Metro Vancouver: Andrea Paquette, AKA Bipolar Babe

Andrea is passionate about educating today’s youth on the stigma surrounding mental health and additional societal stigmas that negatively affect people’s perceptions of themselves and others. She shares her personal story of struggle and triumph since her bipolar disorder diagnosis in 2005. She is an award winning mental health activist, educator, facilitator, writer and speaker. It is through her story that she is able to share her personal views and educated opinions, with both youth and adults, on mental health and stigma.

In 5 short years, Andrea has presented her story at over 150 schools, workplaces, community organizations and events, reaching over 12,000 people. Her message of stomping out stigma and mental health awareness is engaging, entertaining, enlightening and eye opening. The consistent feedback from participants demonstrates that she is positively touching lives and making an impact in many positive ways.

Laurie Edmundson

Classroom Presenter, Metro Vancouver: Laurie Edmundson

Laurie Edmundson is excited to be working with the Stigma Free Society as a Classroom and Community presenter for the organization. Laurie has been speaking about her lived experience with mental health challenges since 2015 as has spoken to thousands of people from many different walks of life and disciplines, which includes youth, physicians, counsellors, government representatives and parents. Laurie’s interest in mental health and psychology began at an early age, when she knew there was something different about her. Striving for answers, she began volunteering at her high school’s counselling department, and proceeded to attend university where she took a particular interest in forensic psychology. In 2017, she finished her degree with a joint major in Criminology and Psychology. Once diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, she went through a long process of self-discovery and treatment. Participating in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and meeting others who were dealing with similar challenges to herself was the key to her recovery and wellness today. Laurie is the first and only youth with lived experience in British Columbia to become a Project Lead in the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use (CYMHSU) Collaborative where she continues to work towards bettering the mental health system at both community and provincial levels.

Robyn Thomas

Classroom Presenter, Vancouver Island: Robyn Thomas

Robyn Thomas is passionate about working with the Stigma Free Society, formerly the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia – Bipolar Babes, as a classroom and community presenter. Robyn is a true Stigma-Free Zone Superhero and she is also the lead facilitator for the Society’s Teens2Twenties Support Group in Victoria, B.C. She is dedicated to supporting youth living with mental illness, while encouraging all people to lead fulfilling and connected lives. Her personal story has ignited a passion in Robyn’s heart to tell her own remarkable mental health journey of hope and resiliency. She is driven to shatter stigma and challenge the societal beliefs that fuel hurtful stereotypes and isolate many experiencing struggles. She wants people dealing with stigma, and particularly mental health issues, to know that they are not alone and everyone can lead inspiring and beautiful lives. Most importantly, Robyn encourages us all to be more compassionate with one another and make a meaningful contribution to creating a world free of stigma.

Our Stigma-Free Zone Superheroes Program presentations are created to be delivered in a classroom environment as they are personal and interactive. We enjoy presenting to generally 30 students at a time, but we do also encourage doubling up classes with a maximum number of 60 students.

A stigma-free certificate is provided to the class and teachers display it in the school to create a ‘Stigma-Free Zone.’

Feel free to take our Stigma-Free Pledge and work toward living a stigma-free life!

To book a FREE Stigma-Free Zone Superheroes presentation or for more information contact us today!

Create a stigma-free zone with your students and encourage awareness, understanding and acceptance

Sponsored by Coast Mental Health