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Meet our Stigma-Free Scholarship Winner Megan!

“I really had to grieve my changed sense of identity when I was diagnosed, at first, because I took it hard.”

These were Megan’s thoughts as she remembered the moment she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years ago. Megan struggled with a lot of self-stigma and biases that had come from what she had seen in the media. It was a huge transitional moment.

We, at the Stigma-Free Society are so proud of Megan for all she has overcome and we are extremely excited to announce her as one of our scholarship winners for post-secondary education offered in partnership with the Otsuka Lundbeck Alliance!

Megan plans to put her scholarship money towards her education as she is currently enrolled in the Post-Degree Diploma in Accounting at Camosun College. She aspires to become a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA).

Throughout her undergraduate years, Megan excelled in her Math degree and was invited to fly across the country to present her research where she earned many accolades and was told her presentation was a favorite of the day.

We feel that this is an incredible achievement, particularly because this was during the time of Megan’s mental illness diagnosis.

About two years ago, Megan was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type I and faced a lot of stigma. Not only was Megan struggling with her own transition, but she realized that she was being treated differently by her community and even her close friends. This caused her to feel isolated during her undergraduate education.

She was able to find acceptance and compassion through her support group – one that she was recently able to reconnect with due to transitioning online this year.

Megan’s lived experience with bipolar has taught her to extend more acceptance, compassion, and kindness to others.

A big source of inspiration for Megan is her mother. She states that her mother is a life-long learner – something that has been passed onto her. In addition, her mother has always been encouraging and has been a huge source of support for her.

Given all that she has experienced, what advice would Megan give to her younger self and to others?

“Put yourself out there more”.

By putting herself out there, Megan has had so many opportunities that were previously stifled by negative self-talk. Megan’s message to others is: Be kind and do not judge others. We do not know what the people around us may be experiencing and the impact our words may have on them.

Congratulations on your scholarship and good luck Megan!

Author, Raman Daliwal, Stigma-Free Intern, Adler University

 

From Battling Lifelong Stigmas to Scholarship Award Winner – Meet Juls

We are incredibly proud to introduce you to Juls Budau, winner of the Stigma-Free Society – Otsuka Lundbeck Alliance Scholarship. Registered in the Masters in Social Work program at the Northern University of British Columbia, Juls will use this scholarship money to pay for her tuition, something she wasn’t sure how she was going to cover before she won the scholarship. These scholarships are awarded to inspirational individuals who are working towards ending stigmas and encouraging change in the field of mental health.

Juls’ Story:

Since 16, Juls has fought against a variety of stigmas, including living in poverty, mental illness, drug use, self-harming and sexual abuse. After being diagnosed with ADHD at age 31 and self-medicating for years, Juls battled the stigmas around mental illness and drug use. Years after diagnosis, she has finally received the support, education and guidance she needed to be able to successfully dive into her graduate work.

Now 36, Juls has set her sights on helping change health care policy. Hoping that her research on how cycles of perpetuating criminalization and stigmatization affect attitudes of the public, service providers and drug users themselves regarding the overdose crisis will help health care providers create a pocket of openness of safety for stigmatized individuals.

A message from Juls:

When asked what message she would like to give others she said,

“If you feel like your being stigmatized, remember to look at the person doing the stigmatizing – you need to find the right people to have in your life and those that stigmatize you are not your people”.

Living with and battling the numerous stigmas she’s faced in her life, Juls happily announces that she has learned that she is strong and smart – and that a lot of the opinions and negative attitudes she faced had to do with greater systems and economic control. Now, by further educating herself in the area of social work, we’re sure she will make a positive impact and create the change she is hoping to create.

Congratulations on your scholarship, Juls. We cannot wait to see the great work we know you’re going to do in the area of stigmatization. We are beyond proud to announce you as one of our scholarship winners. Good luck to you!

Thank you to Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance for their generous sponsorship in funding the Stigma-Free Society’s Stigma-Free Scholarships.

Author, Lindsay Goulet – Community Development Manager, SFS

Embracing Emotions to Create Change: Meet Scholarship Winner Kristine Robles

With the support from the Otsuka-Lunbeck Alliance, we are so proud to announce Kristine Robles as one of the recipients of a Stigma-Free Society scholarship for post-secondary education. Kristine is currently enrolled as a full-time student in the Master of Counselling Psychology: School and Youth program at Adler University.

These scholarships are awarded to inspirational individuals who are working towards ending stigmas and encouraging change in the field of mental health. Kristine began her work in the field of mental health awareness as a volunteer for a Peer Support program that had a goal to defeat the stigma surrounding mental illness by debunking myths and encouraging others to talk about their struggles. Ultimately, the number one goal was to empower those in the program to  strive for a healthier lifestyle and mindset and to reach out when they needed the support to power through. Over time, Kristine’s passion grew and she felt a strong connection between herself and her community. She began volunteering for the Kids Help Phone Crisis text-line and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

But what inspired Kristine to begin working in the field of De-stigmatizing mental illness?

Growing up in a Collectivist Culture that values the needs of the community over the individual had Kristine bottling up her emotions for years and years. She grew up tending to the needs of others while ignoring her own. Bottling up her emotions for years eventually led to panic attacks any time she tried to open up. By holding in her emotions, Kristine began talking negatively about herself and very little self-confidence and self-esteem.

It wasn’t until her father attempted suicide that she realized the importance of opening up and talking about her emotions with her friends and family. She decided then and there  that the way she was living her life wasn’t sustainable and needed to change.

“This experience opened up my eyes and changed my family’s worldview about mental health. We all realized that we were struggling and unhappy. Unfortunately, it took a severe and serious turning point for this realization to occur. However, we started opening up to one another and accepted each other’s emotions openly and willingly. We no longer wanted to feel like a burden or shameful when wanting to express our feelings. This critical point has changed our lives forever and spiked my interest in mental health.”

From her personal struggles and her Dad’s battle against depression, Kristine decided that she wanted to do more than crisis intervention, she wanted to be able to provide therapy and counselling to those who need help. She has decided to put 100% of the scholarship toward her Masters program tuition and we are beyond proud of Kristine and the work she has done.

Good luck, Kristine. Thank you for helping educate others on the importance of emotional and mental health. We know you’re going to do great things!

Congratulations on your scholarship!

Author: Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS

Stigma-Free Society Scholarship Opportunity!

The Stigma-Free Society is thrilled to be partnering with the Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance to offer two deserving youth a scholarship of $2000 to be allocated to their educational pursuits.

Two B.C. students experiencing the effects of social stigmatization, either because of mental illness, LGBTQ+, homelessness, race, or addictions issues, will be selected to receive this scholarship for their Spring 2020 term.

To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must be B.C. residents and complete a Scholarship Application, and must have dealt with or be currently dealing with the effects of stigma in their lives.  Applicants also must be planning on attending school and be accepted at an accredited educational institution for the Spring 2020 term. Applications are due no later than November 20, 2019.

The Stigma-Free Society is committed to eradicating stigma through awareness and education, and we want to ensure that those who experience the negative impact of stigma know that they are not alone and have tangible opportunities to be supported.

For more information on how to apply and to obtain an application, please contact Andrea Paquette, President, SFS: [email protected]

We look forward to your application.

THANK YOU!

Transforming Obstacles into Strength: Meet our Scholarship Winner Gabriella!

Gabriella has made her mental health challenges into one of her greatest strengths, but it didn’t start that way.

Struggling with anxiety for as long as she can remember, Gabriella says, “I never knew any different. I thought everyone’s brain just worked that way.” As she got older, the anxiety evolved into recurring panic attacks and began affecting her schoolwork. Still, her anxiety also motivated her to work harder, and although her anxiety caused her to have challenges in school, she asserts, “It was also one of the biggest factors that led me to where I am now.”

With the support of OtsukaLundbeck Alliance, the Stigma-Free Society provided a post-secondary school scholarship to Gabriella to put towards earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration at Simon Fraser University. She feels that her competitive spirit and perfectionism allow her to have success in such a difficult program, but it’s these same traits that made her reluctant to seek help for so long.

Like many people in our society, Gabriella didn’t want to admit that her mental distress was an issue and that it severely impacted her life. She told herself that she ought to simply, “Suck it up,” and get by on her own.  A shift in thinking came after she made many positive lifestyle changes from diet modifications to exercise regimens, and while this helped to some degree her mind simply would not shut off from relentless anxiety and worries. She stumbled across a documentary about women struggling with anxiety and depression, and eventually decided to try medication.

Gabriella often told herself, “If I’m not taking medication, I’m winning.” There is so much stigma around people who take medication for mental health, whereas people who take medication for physical illness are rarely judged so harshly. Gabriella states, “I noticed in a lot of people, they feel that taking medication for mental health is something that is a weakness instead of something that can make you feel stronger.”

Since then, she has received support from friends and family, and has had friends tell her that her decision to take care of her own mental health has inspired them to do the same. Gabriella asserts,

“Mental health is in everybody, and everybody needs to be taking care of it.”

Finding out her condition had a name felt empowering to Gabriella. She finds success in overcoming her anxiety through regular meditation and exercise, and practices positive affirmations. Like many people who struggle with perfectionism and anxiety, no matter what has been achieved, Gabriella often felt like she was never enough, or that she was not meeting her own expectations. These practices, as well as working with a doctor regularly to manage her mental health, help her feel that she is not a victim, but rather an active driver in her own wellness. Gabriella states, “I have a part-time job in Finance and I am in school full time for Business. I have a really great support system and my friends mean the world to me.”

One of the most important insights about managing her mental health is refusing to see herself as a victim. Gabriella does not view her anxiety as a negative obstacle, but as a means to push herself and become stronger. She encourages others by saying, “Use whatever strengths and weaknesses you have, that’s who you are. You can work to improve yourself, but you can’t change who you are. Use that to motivate yourself and do great things. Use it as a positive light.”

Author,

Robyn Thomas, Community Development Manager, Stigma-Free Society

Thank you to the OtsukaLundbeck Alliance between Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. and Lundbeck Canada  for their generous donations to two Stigma-Free Scholarships in 2018-19. We are very grateful.

Meet our Stigma-Free Society – Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance Scholarship Winner!

Many students on campus are carrying around more than just heavy textbooks. Not only burdened by the pressures of fitting in, and keeping up high grades, some students are facing hidden adversity made worse by the effects of stigma.

Ruzzelle – Stigma-Free Society Scholarship Winner

With the support of Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance, we were able to give two deserving students who have overcome societal and self-stigma a scholarship to put towards their post-secondary program of choice. One of our two scholarship winners, Ruzzelle, began having mental health issues in high school but didn’t believe that getting help from a professional was an option.

“I almost failed my first year of University”, she says, “and it wasn’t until I started to see somebody later on that I could slowly get a handle on just living.” Mental health wasn’t something Ruzzelle’s friends in high school talked about, and like many families, hers did not talk about mental illness in a constructive way. “When I told them I was depressed, they wanted to take me to Disney Land because it’s the happiest place on earth! They just wanted me to get better and they didn’t know how.” Eventually, her family offered her the financial support to see a counselor.

The counseling sessions helped Ruzzelle become aware of her self-defeating thoughts, self-stigma being among them. She spent years struggling to simply get out of bed, but for a long time, felt that it was a problem best handled alone.  Now Ruzzelle says, “I feel like the anxious thoughts are more manageable now, I think because I’ve had all this practice, time and support.”

Now that she has the support she needs, Ruzzelle is completing a Masters Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. “I’m entering a field where I’m going to be able to help other people go through their own journey of stigma which is amazing. I never thought I’d be able to do that.”

We asked Ruzzelle how it felt to receive a scholarship based on her experiences of overcoming stigma and she responded, “I felt very supported. I heard all this bad news in the media all the time, but hearing what one non-profit is doing for students about stigma is amazing. One of the good pieces of news that I need.”

When asked what she would say to other students suffering from the effects of societal or self-stigma, Ruzzelle would like them to know that, “You’re not alone in your journey. All it takes is one person to really listen to you and it can be life changing.”

Congratulations Ruzzelle and all the best in your Masters Program!

Thank you to Lundbeck Canada and Otsuka Canada Pharmaceuticals Inc.for making the Stigma-Free Society Scholarships possible.

Funders