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 and Resources Page via a QR link that can be scanned with their cell phones to access centralized resources such as the Kids Help Phone. 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 Tool 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 Tool 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.

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.

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.

Christian Filice, School and Community Presenter, Metro Vancouver 

Christian Filice is a School and Community Presenter for the Stigma-Free Society and an advocate for social justice enrolled in the Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology program at Adler University. He graduated from McGill University in 2015 with a primary goal of helping at-risk youth understand mental health and face social barriers. He has worked with youth in a variety of settings, including many years of camp counselling, high performance coaching in competitive volleyball, and psycho-educational assessment of learning disabilities, ADHD, intellectual disability and mood and anxiety disorders. He is currently placed at Child and Youth Mental Health in White Rock for the 2019-2020 academic year.

He lives with complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (cPTSD) that stems from early childhood, which generated multiple addictions from which he has recovered. In addition, Christian identifies as a queer male. Through his experiences, he has truly understood the impact that stigma can have on individuals that differ from society’s mainstream. His work has included advocacy for sex workers’ rights and visibility, tackling the stigma of disabilities and addiction and he is completing a graduate research project on the stigma of mental disorders specifically.

Lindsay Goulet, School and Community Presenter, Vancouver Island

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.

Cameron Webster, School and Community Presenter, Vancouver Island

Cam Webster age 24, 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. This came as a shock because there is no history of this condition or any other major mental health issues in his family.

His passions includes science, history and sports. Cam has taught C.B.T. classes for Island Health and he has also taught W.R.A.P. (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) workshops through M.H.R.P. (Mental Health Recovery Partners.) Cam has been sharing his mental health story for 3 years now to try and raise awareness, break stigma and help others.

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 School presentation or for more information contact us today!

Create a Stigma-Free Zone with your students and encourage awareness, understanding and acceptance