Meet our Stigma-Free Scholarship Winner, Daphnée!

We’re excited to introduce Daphnée, one of our Stigma-Free Scholarship winners! In this interview, she shares about her inspiring journey and personal experiences with stigma as someone living with borderline personality disorder. Keep reading to learn more about her story!

When Daphnée was first diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), she felt a sense of hope and relief: she finally had a solution to the challenges she had been facing, was offered treatment, and gained access to dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). But not long after her diagnosis, she realized how highly stigmatized BPD is – not only by the public, but by people who are widely viewed as experts on the topic, such as healthcare professionals and university professors. After hearing so many negative stereotypes about people living with BPD and seeing the amount of misinformation online, she learned that BPD was not widely accepted or understood.

Despite these challenges, Daphnée turned her feelings of shame that she felt because of stigma into motivation: she currently works as a Youth Peer Support Worker, where she shares her story and teaches coping skills to youth between the ages of 12 and 24. She advocates for people who can’t advocate for themselves. “When you face stigma, it can be absolutely devastating and invalidating,” Daphnée remarks. “I want to give them back that sense of empowerment that they’re worthy and lovable even though we live in a society where if you’re mentally ill, you face judgment and even discrimination.”

She also overcomes stigma by sharing her experiences publicly through writing. “It’s like I don’t have to hide anymore, and that’s really empowering,” she says. “When I write things and people feel like the piece is relatable to them, that really helps.” Her writing helps break down the stigma around BPD, and she often gets feedback from readers that they relate to her and feel less alone. The biggest lessons she’s taken away from her experience with mental health and stigma are that she can make a positive difference, and that it’s possible to gain a sense of resilience and empowerment despite stigma.

Daphnée plans to continue providing mental health support to others and breaking the stigma around mental illness through her career and academic pursuits. She is currently majoring in English Literature and minoring in Education. Her goal is to pursue a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology and practice as a Registered Psychotherapist. She hopes that her experience with stigma will give her insight into what her clients are feeling, and help them overcome the challenging feelings that result from stigma. “People with lived experience make the best mental health professionals because they’ve been there,” she points out. We are delighted to support her postsecondary studies through our Stigma-Free Scholarship offered in partnership with the Otsuka Lundbeck Alliance!

If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness and are facing stigma because of it, Daphnée offers words of hope and encouragement: “Validate yourself and show yourself compassion. You’re doing the best that you can.” She also emphasizes the importance of reaching out for peer support if you’re feeling stigmatized and alone in your struggles. Through DBT, Daphnée has learned exercises that she practices herself and shares with others. Mindfulness, boundary-setting, and building positive experiences are all coping skills that she’s found to be effective. She focuses on what she’s passionate about and pursues goals that give her a sense of meaning.

Daphnée leaves us with valuable tips for how we can work together to help reduce the stigma around BPD and other mental illnesses: educate yourself, and most importantly, talk to people who have lived experience. “It’s easy to read a flyer or pamphlet, but it will never beat sitting down with someone with BPD, listening to their story, and learning what’s helped them,” she says. Moreover, finding the right source of information is critical. “Don’t believe everything you read online!” She reminds us. She suggests reading books that speak about BPD in a compassionate and informative way, and educating yourself on available treatments.

Congratulations Daphnée! Thank you for sharing your story with us. The team at Stigma-Free Society admires the meaningful work you do and wishes you the best of luck in the future!