Now, more than ever, education around mental health and the numerous stigmas in society is needed. The stigmas that exist, particularly around mental health, prevent young people from reaching out for help. 

Welcome to the Virtual Stigma-Free Presentations

Our in-person presentations launched in schools in March 2016, and reached over 50,000 students. We have now adapted our former Stigma-Free Zone School Presentations so that we can provide mental health education virtually. This virtual experience enables schools to continue to increase the number of students being educated on various stigmas, especially those that surround mental illness.

How Does It All Work?

The Society’s virtual presentations program offers LIVE 45-minute sessions for students via an online platform, where a presenter shares about their journey with stigma and the intersecting mental health issues they have faced. The program also provides a co-presenter who facilitates the online presentation based on their deep knowledge about mental health.

We work hand-in-hand with each school to schedule a virtual presentation. This presentation includes either a series of shorter documentary-style videos or one 50-minute documentary on various mental illnesses and other stigmas. 

The Virtual Stigma-Free Presentations are generally offered by donation to the Stigma-Free Society. 

In past years, schools and/or districts have made a donation to the Society for receiving a presentation at their school. However, the Society recognizes that a donation is not always possible, and presenters can virtually visit schools on a no-cost basis. 

Participating schools will also gain full access to the Student Mental Health Toolkit

Please go HERE to request full access. 

The Student Mental Health Toolkit provides access to a robust and engaging documentary series that is offered as part of the Virtual Stigma-Free Presentations.

The Virtual Stigma-Free Presentations also include access to an Educator’s Guide, Student Activities, and Mental Wellness Lesson Plans.

The Virtual Stigma-Free School Program Step-by-Step Process:

  • Schools book a presentation by contacting us here. 
  • The school uses this section that includes short documentary-style videos, or a full 50-minute documentary, and accompanying lesson plans to help discuss various stigmas with students.
  • Educators complete the lesson plan prior to students watching the video(s).
  • Students watch the documentary video(s).
  • Students write down anonymous questions on pieces of paper that can be used during the Q&A portion of the virtual presentation. 
  • Presenters join students virtually for a LIVE 45-minute session via an online platform, where a presenter shares about their journey with stigma and the intersecting mental health issues they have faced. The program also provides a co-presenter that facilitates the online presentation based on their deep knowledge around mental health.
  • Students participate in an interactive Q&A session with virtual Stigma-Free presenters. 
  • Students complete a brief survey and share their hand-written reflections on their learnings from the presentation. Student feedback is anonymously submitted online or on paper to allow for genuine reflection. Teachers also complete a program scorecard, which provides an opportunity for feedback and evaluation.
  • Students are encouraged to take the Stigma-Free Tool sometime after their school day is complete, once they have had a chance to ponder their learning. Revisiting the Tool at a later date  allows youth to  discern whether their views about stigma have changed over time.
  • Students and educators are encouraged to use the Student Mental Health Toolkit for further learning on mental health and stigma.

Meet Your Virtual Stigma-Free Presenters

Andrea Paquette

President and Co-Founder of the Stigma-Free Society

Andrea Paquette is the President and Co-Founder of the Stigma-Free Society. She is an experienced speaker who lives well with bipolar disorder having been diagnosed for over 16 years. She holds a double major degree in Political Science and Women’s Studies and she has worked for the BC government in the areas of mental health and addictions, social development and education. She is certified in ASIST Suicide Prevention. She has also been trained and certified in the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Mental Health First Aid course. Andrea has received many awards including the 2015 Courage to Come Back Award by Coast Mental Health.

Andrea Paquette

President and Co-Founder of the Stigma-Free Society

Engaging, Fun and Authentic

Strengths: 

I feel that my personal story of living with bipolar disorder resonates with people. I am authentic and honest in my talk. I love moving people to action and having them get help for themselves.

Topics of expertise:

Student mental health mostly grades 8-12, how to define and tackle stigma, and bipolar disorder specifically.

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Entertaining
  • Informative
  • Inspirational

Madeleine Clarkson

(she/her)
Programs & Partnerships Manager at the Stigma-Free Society

Madeleine Pearce is the Programs & Partnerships Manager for Stigma-Free Society. She graduated Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French with a Concentration for Prospective Teachers. She is also trained and certified in Mental Health First Aid and has taken the Peer Support Worker Training with Robyn Priest LIVE YOUR TRUTH. Madeleine has lived experience with mental illness, having been diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder when she was 14 years old. She shares her experiences and strategies for maintaining her mental well-being through her work with the Stigma-Free Society, while developing useful resources for the community and building meaningful partnerships with other organizations. She hopes that her contributions to the Stigma-Free Society will help reduce stigma around mental illness, especially for young people like herself.

Madeleine Clarkson

(she/her)
Programs & Partnerships Manager at the Stigma-Free Society

Energetic, Honest, Empathetic

Strengths: 

I am articulate, engaging and know how to relate to young people. I enjoy talking and educating others about living with Bipolar 1 Disorder and believe my personal story connects with students of various ages.

Topics of expertise:

Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, coping with mental health, and the effects/prevention of bullying.

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Relatable
  • Inspiring
  • Engaging

EJ Weston

(they/them)
School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

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 effects 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 we are able to change people’s lives and create meaningful change when we share our stories and experiences.

EJ Weston

(they/them)
School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Kind, Funny, Athletic

Strengths: 

I love the fluidity presentations offer and am able to improve and deliver my presentation in many ways to suit different audiences. I use my ability to relate to others and my sense of humour to get our message across in a fun and educational way.

Topics of expertise:

Living Stigma-Free, Mental Health, Diversity, Inclusion, Accessibility, Psychology, Addictions

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Relatable
  • Diverse
  • Inspirational

Gia Khunkhun

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Gia K. is an 11-year old girl with a big heart and unique mind. She believes her dyslexia is a gift that gives her the ability to see the world in a different, exciting and refreshing way. For example, she likes to combine, flip and make up words. Gia is a “possibiltarian” – someone who believes in possibilities! Gia is a senior volunteer with Dolphin KIDS: Future-ready Leaders where she helps teach younger children important social, emotional and innovation skills. She is passionate about nature, team sports, art & science. Gia’s motto is “work hard, think positive, make the world a better place & have fun!” She would to love to talk to your school about dyslexia, how she overcame the stigma of a learning difference and why it is now her great gift!

Gia Khunkhun

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Unique, Creative, Caring 

Strengths: 

I believe I am a caring and thoughtful presenter. I spent a lot of time and thought on my presentation to make it very helpful for other children and even teachers.

Topics of expertise:

Dyslexia, Mean Behaviour of Others

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Relatable
  • Brave
  • Hopeful

Cam Webster

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Cam, 25, was first hospitalized with Psychosis N.O.S. (Not Otherwise Specified) in July of 2014, less than one month after his 19th birthday. His illness developed and he was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder 2 years later. Cam is a “Mental Health and Addictions” student at Camosun, he has taught C.B.T. classes for Island Health and he has also taught Wellness Recovery Action Plan workshops through Mental Health Recovery Partners. Cam has been sharing his mental health story for 4 years now to try and raise awareness, break stigma and help others.

Cam Webster

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Friendly, Athletic, Curious 

Strengths: 

As someone living with various mental illnesses, I find students connect well with my story and my honesty. I believe managing a very successful recovery enables me to present in a relatable and authentic way that students seem to really connect with.

Topics of expertise:

Science and statistics related to mental illness, early warning signs, various ways activities can help with recovery.

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Candid
  • Honest
  • Optimistic

Mack von Riesen

(he/him)
School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Mack is a School and Community presenter for the Stigma-Free Society. He is a professional cook, who is passionate about LGBTQ+ advocacy. Mack openly shares his story around gender, mental health and how they can coincide  as a way to break down the stigma and show youth they aren’t alone. As a queer transmasculine person living with ADHD, anxiety and having grown up with family members with addiction, he knows the importance of community, representation and strives to help others access it.

Mack von Riesen

(he/him)
School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Insightful, empathetic, passionate

Strengths: 

I feel that my authenticity and openness about my journey creates a safe and engaging environment for students. I love educating and opening up students’ minds to the diversity all around us.

Topics of expertise:

LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion, specifically for the transgender community, Anxiety, Depression, and ADHD

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Relatable
  • Honest
  • Inspirational

Joesh Khunkhun

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Joesh is a 15 year-old school presenter for the Stigma-Free Society. He is very passionate about sports and plays a lot of them, his favourites are soccer, basketball, and football. Joesh is extremely passionate about ADHD and learning differences and how we as a society can be more aware of them. Joesh does not see these as a disorder but as more of a benefit and how we can effectively utilize ADHD and learning differences in our school systems. As someone who has both ADHD and the learning difference of written output, Joesh wants to inspire and educate young minds about what it’s like to live life with these and why it is important in our communities.

Joesh Khunkhun

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Adventurous, Energetic, Positive

Strengths: 

Some strengths I have as a speaker include fearlessness, confidence and positivity. My speaking is very energetic, and I love storytelling. I also know how to engage youth through humour.

Topics of expertise:

ADHD, Learning differences, IEPs, Technology Addiction & Problematic Use, Racism, Anxiety, Climate Change/ Environment.

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Inspiring
  • Perspective-shifting
  • Educational

Tanpreet Parmar

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Tanpreet aims to encourage others to cultivate their own success and turn the life that they dream of into a reality. Tanpreet is a model, actress and philanthropist. She has a BBA majoring in Human Resource Management. She was crowned Miss Charity British Columbia in 2014 and Miss India-Canada in 2016, and placed 2nd runner up in Miss Canada 2020. Tanpreet believes in giving back to the community and is regularly invited to engage in motivational speaking with youth in which she shares the challenges, failures, and insecurities she has faced. She emphasizes the importance of self-love and confidence, and to never let anything or anyone bring us down.

Tanpreet Parmar

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Compassionate, Determined, Genuine 

Strengths: 

I am confident, enthusiastic and engaging. I like to interact with my audience!

Topics of expertise:

Body Image issues, Self-Care, Confidence, Self-Esteem, Stigma, Mental Health Awareness and Bullying.

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Empowering
  • Authentic
  • Inspirational

Nathan Lirenman

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Nathan Lirenman is a 20-year-old young man, currently enrolled in the Kinesiology program at Capilano University. Nathan is a person who has worked hard to learn the skills necessary to be successful in life and proud of who he is, a young man who happens to have Autism. Nathan has used determination, and hard work to not let stigma, stereotypes, and adversity get in the way of his goals. Nathan loves to keep active by running, working out, and walking in nature which he has felt has made him stronger mentally. Nathan is motivated to shatter all the stigmas associated with Autism!

Nathan Lirenman

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Ambitious, Empathetic, Determined 

Strengths: 

My strengths as a speaker is my courage to be able to speak in front of audiences, and my passionate desire to convey my message courageously.  I also am really interested in learning about everyone around me.

Topics of expertise:

Living with Anxiety and Autism.

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Courageous
  • Thought-provoking
  • Engaging

Sarah Khan

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Sarah aims to help break down the stigma that surrounds mental health. As someone who experienced the stigma around talking about her own experience with anxiety and depression Sarah is passionate about sharing her story so that others know that they are not alone. Sarah is a Librarian and holds a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science with a focus on Youth Services. She is also a Journalist, Actress, Curve model, Lifestyle and Book Blogger. Sarah likes to spread positivity and hopes that her story will encourage others to focus on their mental wellness and practice self-care.

Sarah Khan

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Outgoing, Empathetic, Honest 

Strengths: 

I’m an outgoing person and I like to talk and connect with my audience to create an engaging experience. I’m a storyteller and I know how to interact and communicate with youth, to create inclusive spaces and promote meaningful conversations.

Topics of expertise:

Anxiety, Depression, Overwhelm, Burnout, Self-Care, and Wellness.

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Inspiring
  • Relatable
  • Engaging

Samara Liberman

(she/her)
Programs Manager and School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Samara is the Programs Manager for Stigma-Free Society. She has a Bachelors degree in Equity Studies, a Masters in Teaching and a professional development certificate in Youth Mental Health. Samara wrote her Masters thesis on inclusive education practices for students with learning disabilities. She is passionate about inclusion in all forms, but specifically for students struggling with learning disabilities and/or mental health concerns. She has Dyslexia and Dyscalculia, as well as generalized anxiety disorder and situational depression, which she speaks about openly and honestly. She wants to work towards removing the stigma connected to seeking mental health help from a professional and is open about her experience in therapy.

Samara Liberman

(she/her)
Programs Manager and School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Tenacious, Vulnerable, Warm 

Strengths: 

Living with two learning disabilities and two mental health diagnoses that greatly impacted my academic experience, I can relate to students who might be struggling in these areas. I understand how mental health is impacted by other aspects of our identities, such as disability, and can speak to these intersections from my own lived experience.

Topics of expertise:

Ability/disability, Anxiety, Depression, De-stigmatizing therapy, Panic attacks, Learning difficulties, Mental Health and Disability stigma, Diversity/Inclusion

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Personal
  • Relatable
  • Accessible

Ellen Reimer

Programs Assistant and School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Ellen is an English and Environmental Studies student at the University of Victoria and is also the Stigma-Free Society’s Co-op student, who is responsible for assisting staff with communications and the development of Society’s programming. As someone who has spent a large part of her life in school, Ellen has experienced and witnessed her fellow schoolmates struggle to keep up with expectations in the classroom, while also balancing personal mental health needs. She believes that community care and authentic connection play a big role in her success as a person. Ellen is passionate about sharing her story in the hopes that it will encourage others discover ways to prioritize their mental health through challenging circumstances.

Ellen Reimer

Communications Lead and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Considerate, Understanding, Open

Strengths: 

I love connecting and engaging with young people, which shines through when I speak about my story. I believe it is so important to help others feel comfortable during each presentation, so they can take in the information in a relaxed and open state of mind.

Topics of expertise:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Coping with Mental Health, Self-Love, Self-Care, and Supporting Loved Ones with their Mental Health

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Sincere
  • Uplifting
  • Motivating

Denae Dyck

(she/her)
School and Community Presenter, Content Creator, and Women’s Support Group Lead Facilitator at Stigma-Free Society

Denae Dyck is excited to have the opportunity to bring her passion for storytelling and lifelong learning to the Stigma-Free Society. As Facilitator of the Women’s Peer Support Group, she is committed to making this group a place of empathy and encouragement. Denae believes that conversations about overall wellness play a vital role in both self-discovery and community building. An experienced teacher and writer, she has PhD in English Literature and a passion for lifelong learning. She hopes that sharing her experiences with mental health challenges will inspire people to show compassion and acceptance to others and to themselves.

Denae Dyck

(she/her)
School and Community Presenter, Content Creator, and Women’s Support Group Lead Facilitator at Stigma-Free Society

Thoughtful, Hopeful, Caring

Strengths:

I enjoy connecting with others and talking about experiences of growth and change. I hope that my story of living with and working through mental health challenges can help encourage others to live with courage and creativity.

Topics of expertise:

Mental Health Awareness and Mental Health Challenges (especially for audiences in grades 8-12); Peer Support; Self-Acceptance

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Thought-provoking
  • Heartfelt
  • Motivational

Mike Scott

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Mike Scott is a father to four, retired electrician and foreman, and avid study of stigma and mental health. Mike is currently working on the Family Research Advisory Panel for the University of British Columbia, Faculty of Medicine. While also achieving his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1997, Mike experienced a ten-year battle with life-threatening episodes in bipolar I disorder.

Mike Scott

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

  • Poetic, Optimistic, Empathetic

    Strengths: 

    By learning to deal with stigma and manage my own mental health, I have been able to have success in careers and in raising my family over the last twenty years. I aim to convey my insight and experience when given the platform, also with an ability to provide solutions such as in the Q&A.

    Topics of expertise:

    Mental Health, Bipolar Disorder, Mania, Psychosis

    3 ways to describe your talk:

    • Surprising
    • Interesting
    • Driven

Sterling Renzoni

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

After recovering from two eating disorders, Sterling has become an established mental health advocate. He has continued to raise awareness about and advocate for those with mental illness, through Trent Active Minds, EDify Talks, The Stigma-Free Society, Ontario Shores Center for Mental Health Sciences and The Yellow Tulip Project.  As a mental health advocate Sterling has shared his story on CBC Radio One and on CP24, making headlines for his experience recovering from an eating disorder during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Sterling is committed to creating a safe environment where students and community members can seek treatment and talk about their experiences with mental illness and mental health challenges.

Sterling Renzoni

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Friendly, Approachable, Genuine

Strengths: 

Sterling has lived and academic experience with mental illness and battling stigma, in elementary, secondary and university. He also has experience presenting on national television and on student panels. He is trained in SafeTalk, and he is a certified mental health first aider.

Topics of expertise:

Eating Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, OCD and related disorders, Personality Disorders, Battling mental illness in school, Mental Health Advocacy

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Inspirational
  • Heartwarming
  • Informational