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Celebrating Stigma-Free at Spectrum Community School

From flash mobs to freezie sales, the Philanthropy club at Spectrum Community School has gone the extra mile to fight stigma this year. The Victoria high school was the first school to start working towards their Stigma-Free Zone designation in fall 2017, and their dynamic, passionate team of students and teachers has coordinated initiatives and events to promote Stigma-Free culture and anti-stigma education. Tom Gordon, a teacher and Spectrum and one of the coordinators of the Philanthropy Club, told me about the evolution of the group and their Stigma-Free Zone aspirations for the school.

The club was initially an expansion of the grade 12 social justice course, made up of students seeking volunteer involvement with the greater community. Wanting to promote diverse involvement and interest, they re-branded themselves as the Philanthropy Club. While discussing what sort of community initiatives they could take on as a club, one student was keen to connect them with Andrea Paquette, President of the Stigma-Free Society, who they knew through previous community involvement. The Philanthropy Club then organized a lived-experience mental health presentation (the first criteria of Stigma-Free Zone designation) with Stigma-Free Community Manager Robyn Thomas, who spoke to a group of classes in the fall.

Both staff and students were impressed by Robyn’s powerful story, and the impact of her presentation was widespread. The Philanthropy Club then proceeded to sign a Stigma-Free banner, committing to the movement with their principal, students and Mr. Gordon on board. The club plans to maintain the banner signing as an annual event, continually adding the names of those students and staff who pledge to live stigma-free.

The Philanthropy Club established an action plan for the school year, designating specific months to target a variety of types of stigmas through initiatives and events. In February, for example, the club focused on gender identity and sexuality, and in March, racial stigma.

In May, the group is working on ageism. They are now stimulating an interactive school discussion on age, featuring some of their younger teachers in the conversation.

Later this month, the Philanthropy Club hopes to host a discussion featuring student and staff experiences with Anxiety and Depression to talk about intergenerational relations to mental health. Though the club is winding down for the school year, Tom and the students are excited at prospects for Stigma-Free advocacy in the fall. They hope to host a larger scale fundraising event and recruit more student leaders to their cause to facilitate initiatives and events.

Stigma-Free Society could not be more proud of the Spectrum Philanthropy Club (soon to be known as the Stigma-Free Club) and their hard work towards Stigma-Free Zone designation. We look forward to presenting staff and students with their Stigma-Free Zone plaque at a ceremony in September.

Please feel free to watch Spectrum Community School’s Stigma-Free Flash Mob HERE!

Blog written by: Katie Clarke, Community Outreach Assistant/Intern, Stigma-Free Society

Stigma-Free Society – Highlights of 2017

The Stigma-Free Society’s Highlights of 2017

This past year has been an incredible journey for the Stigma Free Society. We have been able to reach over 4770 students on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, and over 3600 community members this fiscal year with our Stigma-Free Presentations conducted by Robyn Thomas and Andrea Paquette. We continue to spread hope and the knowledge that no matter what stigma or challenge someone faces, we all deserve respect and we can all live extraordinary lives.

Thank you to the hundreds of people who have told us that your views on stigma have been changed and that many of you have a desire to reach out for help for the first time after hearing our presenter’s stories. Our efforts become so worthwhile the moment we receive comments like this one:

“I learned that mental illness is as important as physical health and that it is super important to get help. I need to improve my thinking and be mindful of this topic and be there to help someone who suffers with these mental illnesses and not be judgmental about it. Thank you for the presentation!”

 – Grade 11 student

Not only have we maintained the impact of our presentations, but 2017 has seen the growth of our Stigma Free Zone Movement and Designation Program. In November 2017, Spectrum Community School decided to stand up to bullying and stigma and become Victoria’s first Stigma-Free school! A group of inspiring students have already begun planning monthly events to spread awareness on various society stigmas.

You can read the article in the Goldstream News Gazette: here.

We continue to serve numerous youth and adults in the Greater Victoria Area in our three impacting support groups for those facing mental health challenges. Weekly peer meet-ups and monthly activities help youth feel more comfortable socializing and advocating for themselves.

One participant writes that, “Knowing that I’m not alone in my struggles makes a huge difference.”

Thank you all for your support of our charity and we can’t wait to see what we accomplish next together in 2018!