Now, more than ever, education around the numerous stigmas in society is needed as these stigmas continue to contribute to many young people feeling alienated and not being accepted and understood by their peers. 

Welcome to the Virtual Stigma-Free School Program! We have changed and adapted what used to be our Stigma-Free Zone School Presentation to a virtual experience for schools. This enables schools to continue to educate their students on various stigmas, such as mental health issues.

How Does It All Work?

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 presentations are by donation to the Charity, but the Stigma-Free Society will gladly still do a presentation if a donation is not possible. Schools that are able to donate will receive full and exclusive access to the Student Mental Health Toolkit

Prior to the viewing of the documentary, educators are provided with pre-lesson plans so that they can discuss the video(s) and explain the purpose of discussing these topics with their students.                           

Subsequent to the showing of the video(s), two of our Virtual Stigma-Free Presenters will join your students through a virtual platform. Our presenter will then present their story to your students for 10-15minutes. This is followed by an interactive Q&A where

students are free to ask questions about the documentary and about our presenter’s personal stories. The total presentation is up to 30 minutes.

Our in-person presentations launched in schools in March, 2016 and reached over 50,000 students. We are beyond excited to be able to now provide this education virtually and continue to increase the number of students being educated on various stigmas, including mental illness. 

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.

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

  • Schools book a presentation by emailing us at [email protected]
  • The school uses this section including the short documentary-style videos or the 50-minute documentary and accompanying lesson plans for the teacher to use to help with discussing various stigmas with their students.
  • Educator completes the lesson plans provided prior to the students watching the video(s).
  • Students watch the documentary video(s).
  • Students write down anonymous questions on pieces of paper in case they are needed during the Q&A portion of the presentation. 
  • The presenters join the students virtually to share their personal and inspiring story of living with and managing mental illness or stigma, which emphasizes that we all have struggles, but no matter what our challenges, we can live extraordinary lives.
  • Students participate in an interactive Q&A session with our Virtual School Presenter.
  • Youth complete a brief survey and share their hand-written reflections on their learnings from the presentation. Our Admin team follows up with teachers and all student feedback is anonymously submitted 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 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 and educators are encouraged to use the Student Mental Health Toolkit for further learnings on mental health and stigma.

Meet Your Virtual Q and A Stigma-Free Presenters

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

Lindsay Goulet

Community Development Manager at the Stigma-Free Society

Compassionate, Educated, Caring

Strengths: 

I’m great at connecting with the audience and giving them relatable examples and experiences. I also try to bring humor into topics that are serious to ensure the audience remains engaged and receive information in a non-threatening and somewhat lighter way.

Topics of expertise:

Youth mental health, Mental Health vs. Mental Illness, how to be a Support Warrior and what that entails, how to take care of your mental health.

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Engaging
  • Informative
  • Empowering

Lindsay Goulet, PhD, is the Community Development Manager for the Stigma-Free Society on 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. Lindsay is beyond excited to help spread the education and awareness that the Stigma-Free Society brings to communities.

Maddie is the Communications and Project Manager for Stigma-Free Society. She recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French with a Concentration for Prospective Teachers. Passionate about working with youth, she plans to pursue a career in mental health education, and work within the community to help spread awareness and reduce stigma. Maddie 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. She is a strong believer that everyone deserves to, and can, live a beautiful and fulfilling life.

Maddie Clarkson

(she/her)
Communications and Project 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

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

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.

Cosette is a current PsyD student at Adler University. Growing up, she competed as a synchronized swimmer at the national and international level until her eating disorder became so severe that she could no longer ignore the issue. During her recovery Cosette recognized that she had been associating her value to her performance in the sport. She has now created a new relationship with physical activity, one that is derived from respect and appreciation of her body. Cosette is motivated to help others see that weight and physical appearance do not determine one’s worth. She aspires to help individuals by fostering hope and educating others on the fact that they are not alone.

Cosette LeBlanc

Intern & School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Outgoing, Genuine, Determined

Strengths: 

Using warmth and empathy I am able to connect well with audiences on a number of different topics. I believe being genuine and open to going with the flow helps each presentation take on a shape of its own, with me in the leadership role.

Topics of expertise:

Mental Health, Self-Care, Eating Disorders, Anxiety, Depression, Trauma.

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Warm
  • Inclusive
  • Open

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

Cosette is a current PsyD student at Adler University. Growing up, she competed as a synchronized swimmer at the national and international level until her eating disorder became so severe that she could no longer ignore the issue. During her recovery Cosette recognized that she had been associating her value to her performance in the sport. She has now created a new relationship with physical activity, one that is derived from respect and appreciation of her body. Cosette is motivated to help others see that weight and physical appearance do not determine one’s worth. She aspires to help individuals by fostering hope and educating others on the fact that they are not alone.

Benjamin Garner is an award winning artist, actor and resilient advocate for mental health. Through the arts, 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 lives with bipolar disorder and understands the effects of stigma. He has 10 years of experience working with marginalized populations with respect to comorbid health concerns, psychopathology, mental health and addictions, gender identity, HIV, personal trauma and stigma related issues.

Ben Garner

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Outgoing, Free-spirited, Professional

Strengths: 

I am well-spoken and engaging with students. I use my personal story and authenticity to relate easily to the audience and encourage fully participation throughout our presentation and during the Q&A period. Most importantly, I want people to connect my story to something in their life.

Topics of expertise:

Bipolar Disorder, Depression

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Unique
  • Engaging
  • Informative

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

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.

Joesh is a 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

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

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.

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

Mackenzie Carroll

School and Community Presenter at the Stigma-Free Society

Friendly, Creative, Musical

Strengths: 

I enjoy talking about and informing others on the reality of life with mental illness. I am articulate and have university teaching experience. I believe that being completely open during my talk will create a safe space for students.

Topics of expertise:

Psychosis, Schizoaffective Disorder, OCD

3 ways to describe your talk:

  • Candid
  • Inspiring
  • Informative

Mackenzie Carroll is a musician and a composer and holds a masters degree in music composition. Mackenzie lives with both Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type and OCD. She is currently writing a book detailing her journey with mental illness in an aim to show the reality of life with severe mental illness. She strives to live a good, fulfilling, and productive life alongside her mental illnesses.

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