#ThatWellnessThing – Join us at the Langley Education Centre – Feb. 26th, 2020

Join us to learn more about mental health and wellness at our 3rd Annual Open House & Community Resource Fair!

#ThatWellnessThing

WHEN: Wednesday February 26, 2020 – 4:30 – 7PM @ Langley Education Centre.
WHERE: 21405A 56 Avenue, Langley, B.C.

Students 16+, adults, and school staff welcome. No registration required.
Light refreshments and on site photo booth.

Join us for Presentations & Information Tables

 

  • Mental Health & Wellness
  • Violence Prevention
  • Recreation
  • Counselling
  • Healthy Living
  • Substance Use

DOOR PRIZES!

#ThatWellnessThing

Embracing Emotions to Create Change: Meet Scholarship Winner Kristine Robles

With the support from the Otsuka-Lunbeck Alliance, we are so proud to announce Kristine Robles as one of the recipients of a Stigma-Free Society scholarship for post-secondary education. Kristine is currently enrolled as a full-time student in the Master of Counselling Psychology: School and Youth program at Adler University.

These scholarships are awarded to inspirational individuals who are working towards ending stigmas and encouraging change in the field of mental health. Kristine began her work in the field of mental health awareness as a volunteer for a Peer Support program that had a goal to defeat the stigma surrounding mental illness by debunking myths and encouraging others to talk about their struggles. Ultimately, the number one goal was to empower those in the program to  strive for a healthier lifestyle and mindset and to reach out when they needed the support to power through. Over time, Kristine’s passion grew and she felt a strong connection between herself and her community. She began volunteering for the Kids Help Phone Crisis text-line and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

But what inspired Kristine to begin working in the field of De-stigmatizing mental illness?

Growing up in a Collectivist Culture that values the needs of the community over the individual had Kristine bottling up her emotions for years and years. She grew up tending to the needs of others while ignoring her own. Bottling up her emotions for years eventually led to panic attacks any time she tried to open up. By holding in her emotions, Kristine began talking negatively about herself and very little self-confidence and self-esteem.

It wasn’t until her father attempted suicide that she realized the importance of opening up and talking about her emotions with her friends and family. She decided then and there  that the way she was living her life wasn’t sustainable and needed to change.

“This experience opened up my eyes and changed my family’s worldview about mental health. We all realized that we were struggling and unhappy. Unfortunately, it took a severe and serious turning point for this realization to occur. However, we started opening up to one another and accepted each other’s emotions openly and willingly. We no longer wanted to feel like a burden or shameful when wanting to express our feelings. This critical point has changed our lives forever and spiked my interest in mental health.”

From her personal struggles and her Dad’s battle against depression, Kristine decided that she wanted to do more than crisis intervention, she wanted to be able to provide therapy and counselling to those who need help. She has decided to put 100% of the scholarship toward her Masters program tuition and we are beyond proud of Kristine and the work she has done.

Good luck, Kristine. Thank you for helping educate others on the importance of emotional and mental health. We know you’re going to do great things!

Congratulations on your scholarship!

Author: Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS

RSVP Today for SFS Annual General Meeting Nov. 11th !

Our Annual General Meeting will be held on November 11, 2019, at 6:00 – 7:30 pm at the Century Plaza Hotel in Vancouver. Our AGM is sponsored by Century Plaza Hotel and we are extremely grateful that they have offered the Burrard Ballroom for our event. There will be light refreshments provided by our generous sponsors – Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia and Sergio Cocchia , Co-Founders of the Pacific Autism Family Network (PAFN).

We are very grateful for the Honourable Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, who is our guest speaker. The AGM is a great time to hear how the previous year unfolded for the Stigma-Free Society and to learn about plans for the upcoming year. Please let us know if you plan to attend as we would love to see you.

RSVP by Friday, November 8th, 2019

E-mail: [email protected] to RSVP Today!

Thank you to Wendy and Sergio who are also Co-Founders of the Pacific Autism Family Network (PAFN) where the Good Life Fitness Autism Hub is the first Stigma-Free Zone Charity in Canada!

Thank you for your amazing and ongoing support. 🙂

~The Stigma-Free Society Team

Stigma-Free Society Scholarship Opportunity!

The Stigma-Free Society is thrilled to be partnering with the Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance to offer two deserving youth a scholarship of $2000 to be allocated to their educational pursuits.

Two B.C. students experiencing the effects of social stigmatization, either because of mental illness, LGBTQ+, homelessness, race, or addictions issues, will be selected to receive this scholarship for their Spring 2020 term.

To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must be B.C. residents and complete a Scholarship Application, and must have dealt with or be currently dealing with the effects of stigma in their lives.  Applicants also must be planning on attending school and be accepted at an accredited educational institution for the Spring 2020 term. Applications are due no later than November 20, 2019.

The Stigma-Free Society is committed to eradicating stigma through awareness and education, and we want to ensure that those who experience the negative impact of stigma know that they are not alone and have tangible opportunities to be supported.

For more information on how to apply and to obtain an application, please contact Andrea Paquette, President, SFS: [email protected]

We look forward to your application.

THANK YOU!

AutismBC is Working Towards a Stigma-Free Zone Designation

Over the past year, AutismBC has worked to create an internal cultural shift. With new leadership in place, the organization has committed to an in-depth process of identifying organizational gaps on matters of inclusion.

Not wanting to sit back, and assume, or defend that they are inclusive, staff and board members have dedicated themselves to fostering an impacting culture of learning. They aim to serve as an ally to marginalized individuals and community groups, and have planned concrete actions that will be seen, heard and felt by community members.

In March 2019, AutismBC reached out to the Stigma-Free Society to request support and we are so proud of their significant progress. We commend their commitment to fully value and respect the diverse identities, perspectives and experiences of their community members. AutismBC’s initial step was to create a safe space where their board members and staff are encouraged to ask honest and vulnerable questions about what inclusion means to them and the community at large.

Andrea Paquette, President of the Stigma-Free Society states:

“By doing this work as a team,  AutismBC has become better equipped to build inclusive spaces in the community that foster well-being, connection, belonging, and are free from stigma, discrimination and harassment. This organization’s commitment in establishing their Stigma-Free Zone has been extremely inspiring, motivating and authentic.”

Over the summer, AutismBC developed an annual Stigma-Free Zone Action Plan to outline their ongoing commitments to their community. Some of the action items include the following:

  • Identifying and adopting inclusive terms and language,
  • Supporting a Staff Champion to organize ongoing learning opportunities for staff and board members,
  • Developing inclusive recruitment strategies,
  • Branding the workspace with Stigma-Free Zone window decals and Stigma-Free ACTION posters.
  • Staff and board members have also used the online Stigma-Free Tool to help them better understand what being Stigma-Free truly means,
  • Finally, they have taken the Stigma-Free Pledge and have engaged in meaningful conversations on stigma and inclusion.

All of this progress has been done in just a few short months and the Stigma Free Society applauds AutismBC for they are well on their way to becoming a designated Stigma-Free Zone.

AutismBC has forged ahead after listening to feedback, concerns and criticisms with regards to their former Board President’s personal stance on a matter of inclusivity. While AutismBC did not support the statements and position of their former Board President, the organization was publicly criticized on social media for how they handled the issue.

Over the next few months, AutismBC and the Stigma-Free Society will continue to work on the organization’s actions items and becoming an officially designated Stigma-Free Zone. The Society’s Presenter, EJ Weston, has already presented their own personal story to Autism BC’s staff and board members, in regards to their mental health journey and experiences with identifying as non-binary. The presentation was a grand success and ignited a great amount of discussion, reflection and learnings within the organization. Subsequent to reviewing AutismBC’s Action Plan, we expect to award them with a designation plaque before the end of 2019.

Stay tuned for this exciting announcement in the coming months!

It can be difficult to move forward in the face of controversy and lack of knowledge, but it has been inspiring and extremely uplifting to see how committed AutismBC is to authentic change.

Welcome to Lindsay Goulet – Our New Community Development Manager for Van Island

We are so excited to welcome Lindsay Goulet as our new staff member and leader on Vancouver Island!

Robyn Thomas has since gone to Victoria Women’s Transition House as a Community Manager. We are so happy to have had you with us for 3 years Robyn, thank you for your time with the Stigma-Free Society. 🙂

Lindsay Goulet is the Community Development Manager for the Stigma-Free Society on Vancouver Island. Building community is the hub of Lindsay’s passion and having built two successful community-based businesses, she is excited to continue to build strong community relationships with schools and partners in the Greater Victoria area and the rest of Vancouver Island. With strong strategic planning and marketing skills, Lindsay helps educate and raise awareness for the Stigma-Free Society by expanding, promoting and presenting for programs offered by the Charity.

As a Support Warrior for her son, who was diagnosed with mental illness at age 10, she has advocated for childhood mental illness awareness through her own efforts, especially through various fundraising campaigns. Navigating the system to get help can be overwhelming and daunting, but with education, awareness and support, we can all be successful and thrive. Lindsay is beyond excited to help spread the education and awareness that the Stigma-Free Society brings to her community and surrounding areas.

Lindsay is the driving force behind expanding the Children’s Mental Health Program and developing new community partnerships and maintaining current collaborations. Lindsay is truly an empathetic individual in regards to mental health and is very passionate about working with the Society.

Welcome Lindsay!!! We are so happy to have you with us! 🙂

Stigma-Free Society Opportunity – Part-Time Community Development Officer

Stigma-Free Society Employment Job Description

Position: Community Development Manager (CDM) Victoria, BC

Annual Salary: $30,000 gross salary annually

Job Application deadline: September 15th, 2019

Community Development Officer Duties:

  • Act in a leadership role by encouraging and meeting with the Stigma-Free Society’s four program staff members under the direction of the Society’s President;
  • Work as part of the Stigma-Free Task Force remotely and provide perspective and feedback to Society programs on monthly evening calls;
  • Act in an administration role as necessary for the effective operations of the Society;
  • Build on existing community partnerships via in-person and phone meetings and strive to develop new public/private sector relationships by establishing and following up on Stigma-Free Zone programs in schools, businesses/orgs and geographical areas;
  • Promote and market the new Stigma-Free Zone Online Program across Canada in schools remotely from Victoria, BC;
  • Design and execute successful fundraising and awareness events in Victoria managing numerous volunteers and logistics;
  • Design and conduct presentations in a format that is outlined and approved by the President to community organizations and schools as needed;
  • Assist families and individuals to seek out appropriate resources for mental health care;
  • Work effectively with the Executive Assistant/Program Coordinator and additional Society staff in a Non-Managerial position;
  • Network at events and represent the Society and attend meetings on behalf of the President upon request;
  • Assist with the delivery of the Stigma-Free Society’s Children’s Mental Health Program by offering presentations in schools and to the community and assisting in the recruitment of presentations;
  • Assist with items such as the Society newsletter, website, traditional media and advertisements upon request;
  • Be very flexible and open to conducting tasks that are not identified in the Community Development Manager’s job description that allows for adaptability, versatility and assistance to the President;
  • Possess basic computer software experience: Outlook, Excel, Power Point

Employee Qualifications, Skills, Knowledge and Abilities:

  • Highly organized and able to balance multiple priorities while maintaining high degree of professionalism and strong attention to detail;
  • Ability to communicate information effectively and concisely to various audiences verbally and in writing;
  • Ability to make sound recommendations and decisions based on own analysis;
  • Ability to work with minimal supervision;
  • Ability to use a variety of computer applications, including word processing, spread sheets, and presentation software.
  • Adequate knowledge and understanding about mental health issues, local/provincial resources and how to address stigma related social issues;
  • Experience working with community members with diverse backgrounds;
  • Possess excellent presentation and communications abilities;
  • Ability to market Society programs acting as a Society representative with various stakeholders in schools and the community;
  • Receive feedback and take direction in a positive and effective manner;
  • Prefer a certificate or diploma in mental health, community service worker, or related field.
  • Prefer candidates who have worked with youth aged grades 4-7.

Additional Notes:

  • Gas Mileage is the responsibility of the employee and the Society does not provide remuneration.
  • The employee must have access to a vehicle.
  • The employee must utilize their own laptop computer and Office Suite 2018 may be provided by the Society if necessary.
  • Employment Conditions: (3-month review with conditions as set out as per the BC Standards Act) Performance reviews and future consideration of an increase in salary are at the discretion of the President.
  • Health Benefits: The Society will provide basic medical insurance upon a 3-month approval of a probationary period as determined by the President.
  • Work hours are 20 hours per week. M-F 10-2pm. Hours may be slightly flexible upon a request to the President.

THIS POSITION IS FILLED. THANK YOU.

stigma free society

Ten-Year Old Owen is Paving the Way for Future Generations

stigma free societyOwen is 10 years old and started experiencing severe anxiety in grade 2, and his mental illness continues to induce panic attacks during the most difficult moments in his life. He became officially diagnosed in grade 5 with anxiety and depression. I spoke with Owen for this particular story and he is a genuine, cheery, intelligent and particularly sweet young man. He is one of the most entertaining and amazing individuals that I have ever had the pleasure of engaging with during my 10-year Stigma-Free Society career. I am humbled and feel so honoured to have spoken with Owen and observe his demonstrated strength in working through his personal challenges.

According to the latest statistics from the Canadian Mental Health Association, it is estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder – the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide. Today, approximately 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode. The total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is a staggering 3.2 million.

Owen and I discussed how he positively deals with his mental health issues and he attested that sharing his struggles has been the most therapeutic experience. He finds comfort in his parent’s care, love of his friends, and particularly treasures solace in his most practised sport – hockey.

Recently, Owen created a mental health campaign partnered with his mother Lindsay Gee, and produced a fundraising campaign called Pushing for Awareness. Owen and his mom encouraged participants to commit to 50 push-ups for 50 days in order to raise awareness, and funds for childhood mental illness. When people joined the challenge, they received access to an app that keeps track of their push ups and gives them their own fundraising page to share with their friends and family.

Owen and Lindsay have been featured in multiple local newspapers in Victoria, BC and they raised over $5000 together in their efforts. Owen called me personally and proudly voiced that he was donating $1000 of his campaign’s earnings to the Stigma-Free Society. As President of the Charity, I was overwhelmed by this young man who told me that sharing personal stories of mental health experiences is the most important part of healing from a mental illness.

The most significant message that Owen shares is simple, “It’s okay to talk about it.” I had tears in my eyes during our conversation because I felt something much deeper from our short time together.

I have hope for the future because of Owen as he revealed his vulnerabilities to me, a complete stranger, and he feels very safe talking about his emotions. He is paving the way for future generations who may be feeling unsure, or intimidated about sharing their truth with adults who can help them get the assistance that they need.

Thank you Owen for your bravery, courage and simply being an amazing human being. Young people, like you, will help others come forth with their struggles, and you will no doubt save many lives through your transparency. I thank you immensely for your bravery and the Stigma-Free Society is truly grateful for your generous donation to our Stigma-Free Zone Program and we will do everything we can to visit your classroom soon.

Continue to keep your head held high Owen because we at the Stigma-Free Society are supporting you every step of the way.

Hiring a new Stigma-Free Zone School and Community Presenter in Metro Vancouver

The Stigma-Free Society is currently looking to hire an additional Stigma-Free Zone School and Community Presenter to join our Metro Vancouver team!

The Stigma-Free Society provides education and awareness about the effects of stigma, as well as peer support for those facing personal challenges in hopes of fostering acceptance of ourselves and others. One of our primary programs is the Stigma-Free Zone School Program that is delivered provincially.

We are looking for an extraordinary individual to tell their amazing personal story of hope and resiliency in schools to small and large groups in Metro Vancouver only. With an initial focus on mental health, we have now expanded our mandate to include all stigmas under the Stigma-Free banner (www.stigmafreesociety.com) such as LGBTQ2+, homelessness, race, substance use, etc. If you have a powerful story of overcoming obstacles and dealing with stigma, be it societal stigma or self-stigma, we welcome your application.

We are seeking a school and community presenter with passion and positivity–someone who has lived through and overcome many challenges. If you are truly inspired to share your story with youth in schools (grades 7-12) and occasionally with adults at businesses and organizations, then please keep reading.

This position best suits someone who is VERY accepting and comfortable with themselves and their personal circumstances and is not afraid to talk about their struggles in a public forum. This someone wants to shout their story from the rooftops because they feel that their experiences will make a difference in the lives of others.

A Stigma-Free Zone Presenter must:

  • Be professional and possess experience in public speaking;
  • Be open-minded and willing to learn from different perspectives while taking direction from the President of Stigma-Free Society;
  • Have a positive, respectful attitude and a willingness to be open and authentic;
  • Be comfortable with public speaking and presenting to small or large audiences;
  • Be self-motivated, punctual, and able to adapt to changing situations;
  • Have an engaging and impacting personal story to share;
  • Prior experience working with youth is an asset

Further Important Details: 

  • You will create a PowerPoint presentation with the Society’s guidance and it must be suitable for youth in grades 7-12, which is also used for community presentations;
  • You will be presenting between 45 to 90 minutes to classes or assemblies and various groups in the community;
  • We will train you. The training will generally take about up to 3 weeks to complete (part-time) and you will be paid $400 when the training is complete;
  • We want to put out a very positive message and we welcome stories that are tough. We are seeking applicants who have been through a great deal to get to where they are today and we will work with you to share your story that will encourage others;
  • It is very key to know that if hired, we ask you to commit to work with us for one school year and absolutely no shorter please as it take a great amount of resources to train staff;
  • There is not an average number of presentations promised, but enough that is rewarding and will give you the skills and practice you need to keep you engaged;
  • We expect you to be aware and educated about various marginalized communities and on what available mental health resources exist in the community; and
  • We pay you a flat rate of $100 per presentation – this fee includes all of your expenses, including gas/mileage.

*ESSENTIAL DETAILS TO NOTE – You will be contracted during the school year with summers off. This position is best suited to someone who has a part-time job and/or plenty of flexibility in their schedule. We offer a minimum of 2 weeks’ notice for each presentation, so you can plan ahead. We are accommodating and respectful of your time, but it is preferred that presenters have an adequate amount of availability as determined by the President, SFS.

*You require a guaranteed means of transport to and from your presentation. Public transportation is not acceptable as it is very important you show up at schools and community organizations 20 minutes for set-up before a presentation and many schools and places are not accessible by public transit.

We would really love to hear from you and have you join our amazing Stigma-Free Society Team.

Please be sure to describe in your Cover Letter why you believe you have a powerful story to share. APPLICATIONS WITHOUT A COVER LETTER WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED. 

Remember that no matter what our challenges, we can all live extraordinary lives!

Job Type: Casual (You are deemed a contractor, not an employee of the Society)

Jason: 1 – Stigma: 0 – My Battle with Mental Illness at Home and in the Workplace

I was diagnosed with a mental illness at 29 years old, but the greatest challenge I faced wasn’t the illness itself. It is was the suffocating stigma that came with it.

I am speaking of the stigma that still surrounds mental illness, and the lack of empathy and understanding that follows – and that’s at best. At worst, blatant discrimination is the result. Stigma is inappropriate, unnecessary and offensive. But, unlike mental illness, we have the power to overcome stigma.

Mental illness can be treated – but stigma can be cured.

I came to this realization through the unique experience of being diagnosed with both a major physical illness and a mental illness. The former was a rare nerve defect in my heart that began causing symptoms at 9 years old, and ultimately lead to open-heart surgery at 12 years old. During the entire experience I was overwhelmed with support, love – and a complete lack of stigma. Who would look at a young boy with a heart problem and think his character was in question? Or ask him to just “try harder” or “get more exercise”?

The latter was bipolar disorder, the symptoms of which began appearing in 2002 and progressively worsened until 2005, when I had a 6-day manic episode that resulted in a forced 2-week stay in psychiatric hospital. During those tumultuous three years, bipolar disorder nearly destroyed my life.

It was in comparing these two experiences, both personally and professionally, that I realized the destructive power of stigma, which is very prevalent with respect to mental illness and yet non-existent with other, more known illnesses.

The reality was that years after fixing one major organ with open-heart surgery, it appeared another, this time my brain, wasn’t working properly. Despite the similarities of the illnesses – in both cases, a major organ had a biological failure that created dramatic symptoms – there was nothing similar about the two experiences. First, there was the challenge of self-stigma, which was so strong that for nearly two years I refused treatment and actually tried to find my way back to health through the sheer force of will and determination (as though that was a viable option).

Stigma also reared its ugly head in a second, external way. This time it came in the form of confusion, discomfort, judgment and at times outright discrimination in the minds of those around me. This happened regularly, and not only with those in my professional life, but also those in my social life and family. It was jarring to realize that all of the support, unconditional love and empathy that came my way when my heart wasn’t working was nowhere to be seen now that my brain was failing.

After finally winning the battle against stigma, I began to treat my illness properly – as a medical illness that required my attention, research and, ultimately, treatment. This approach lead to a successful return to full health within 6 months of being hospitalized and diagnosed and, for the vast majority of the days since June, 2005, I have been living well, free of the worst symptoms of bipolar disorder. I work very hard to manage my illness and maintain my physical and mental health, and it isn’t always easy or perfect, but approaching my illness with zero stigma has helped immeasurably.

Once I fully ‘owned’ my illness, I realized I had the opportunity to help others by sharing my experience. Very few people have faced both a physical and mental illness, recovered, are willing to speak about it, and are effective public speakers. My degree in Theatre and Speech Communication provided the final ingredient.

So, in 2006, I started talking. From 2006 to 2015, I delivered over 40 keynotes as a volunteer on behalf of AMI QC, a Montreal-based organization that helps caregivers of those facing mental illness, and also provides outreach education. In 2015, after years of seeing the positive impact of sharing my message, I founded StigmaZero to work towards a future without stigma by helping employers eradicate stigma in their workplaces, so they can better manage mental illness as it arises in their workplace.

My message was, and still is, very clear: stigma continues to exist regarding mental illness because of fear and a lack of understanding. It may often be innocent, but it doesn’t belong, and education is the first step toward eradicating it. We should never again speak of mental illness in any other terms than what it is – an illness.

If you know someone who suffers from a mental illness (and statistics say that you probably do) or if you suffer from one yourself, be a part of the effort to end the stigma.

Stigma is something we have the power to cure.  Let’s get rid of it.

Jason Finucan

Founder, StigmaZero

Author of the book Jason: 1, Stigma: 0 – My battle with mental illness at home and in the workplace

Jason Finucan is a mental health advocate, stigma fighter, professional speaker, founder of StigmaZero and instructor of the programs found within The StigmaZero Online Training Academy.

Visit www.stigmazero.com for more information, and www.stigmazero.com/book to purchase the book.