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.

Our Society encourages schools who receive our presentations to commit to working towards their Stigma-Free Zone designation.

For more information on criteria and the Stigma-Free Zone process please visit our website HERE.

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

Andrea Paquette, School and Community Presenter, Metro Vancouver

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.

Robyn Thomas, Schools and Community Presenter, Vancouver Island 

Robyn Thomas is passionate about working with the Stigma Free Society, 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.

ben garner

Benjamin Garner, School and Community  Presenter, Metro Vancouver

Ben Garner is an award winning artist, actor and resilient advocate for mental health. Ben has a diverse and fascinating background through the arts, where he expresses a personal interest on the topics of mental health, gender identity, societal norms and connection to the human spirit. He possesses a varied educational background in counseling and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

As a queer male, and having recovered from addictions, Ben is a person living with bipolar disorder, who understands the effects that stigma can have on someone who is struggling to fit into societal norms. He is honoured to join forces with the Stigma-Free Society to work as a presenter in the schools, where he hopes to reach youth with his message of hope.

Allie Brohman, School and Community Presenter, Metro Vancouver

Allie recently moved to the west coast from Montreal, where she studied Human Relations and Interdisciplinary Studies of Sexuality at Concordia University. During her studies, she grew a passion for community outreach work. Allie has always been an advocate for mental health – having grown up with the struggles of ADHD, but only being diagnosed later in life, she is excited to raise awareness and create support through her story. Allie encourages others to create space for learning, inspiration, compassion, hope, and understanding while we all follow the continuous journey of un-learning the stigmas, the stereotypes, and the negativity that surround mental health within society. She truly believes that the best way to create change is to connect with the younger generations and inspire those to live a life free of stigma.

EJ Weston, School and Community Presenter, Vancouver Island

EJ is a School and Community Presenter for the Stigma-Free Society and is extremely passionate about mental health and LGBTQ+ topics with the intersectionality of both subjects. EJ is able to talk openly about their experience with their own mental health, sexuality, gender identity and the affects stigma has on it. As a non-binary person, and having recovered from addictions, EJ is a person living with complex PTSD and depression, who understands the importance of asking for help. They believe that when we share our stories and experiences that we are able to change peoples lives and create meaningful change.

Our Stigma-Free Zone Program presentations are created to be delivered in a classroom environment or to an entire assembly.

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