Apply Today for a $2000 Stigma-Free Scholarship for Post-Secondary Students

The Stigma-Free Society is extremely proud to announce that we are once again partnering with Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance to offer TWO deserving post-secondary students.

Two $2000 scholarships will be allocated toward their educational pursuits!

This is the forth year that the Society has been able to provide these amazing scholarships and it is because of our valuable relationship with Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance. We are proud of the work each recipient has completed over the past few years in the area of educating themselves on how to help eradicate stigma through awareness and education.

Scholarships will be awarded to two students, who have experienced or are currently experiencing the effects of stigma because of mental illness, LGBTQ2+, homelessness, race or addictions issues. Additional related experiences will also be considered.

Criteria to apply:

  • Be a current Resident of British Columbia, Canada;
  • Must have dealt with, or are currently dealing with the effects of stigma in their life;
  • Complete an application form with Cover Letter for the Society’s review;
  • The Society hopes to feature each student’s story on their website and anonymity is also permitted if preferred;
  • Must be accepted and registered at an accredited educational institution for the Spring 2023 Semester – Jan. 2023
  • Deadline to Apply is November 30th, 2022

Please Submit your Application HERE

The Stigma-Free Society works to raise awareness and mental health education to students, parents and educators on how to help stop stigma. We provide space for those who have been on the receiving end of stigma and offer support, understanding and acceptance.

Thank you.

Thank you to the Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance for your generosity as these scholarships would not be possible without your financial contribution.

Hiring – Operations and Engagement Manager

Operations and Engagement Manager

Have you ever dreamed of living in a Stigma-Free world?

If so, now you can work at a BC-based non-profit organization that is forging ahead to make the world a more understanding and accepting place.

The Stigma-Free Society is a Canadian registered charity since 2010 and is committed to the promotion of mental wellness and the elimination of stigma that surrounds mental illness, addictions, gender identity, and more. We achieve our mission by providing peer support training, online resource Toolkit hubs, and the delivery of preventative education to youth and the community.

Our Society is well-positioned to provide services that will support mental health in schools and community organizations across Canada. We offer our Student Mental Health Toolkit to Educators, School Counsellors, Parents/Guardians, and youth and rural residents have the opportunity to utilize our Rural Mental Wellness Toolkit across Canada.

Building on a decade of experience, the Stigma-Free Society has taken advantage of the rapid adoption of digital tools in the classroom to expand its Stigma-Free School program and Student Mental Health Toolkit services across British Columbia while expanding into Manitoba in 2022 and other parts of Canada. The Rural Mental Wellness Toolkit is a recent initiative and has great potential to reach even more Canadians with its resources and Rural Residents’ Peer Support Training Program.

We have a clear mandate that will take us into 2022 – our most significant year of growth.

  1. Expand reach & increase impact by connecting more effectively to the non-profit ecosystem and engaging in meaningful partnerships that will foster growth.
  2. The Society will Introduce new and existing programming into School Districts in BC, Manitoba, and Canada. The Society will target students and Rural/Ag residents in BC and Canada.
  3. The Society will Build Capabilities by adding expertise to our team, building on performance, and help scale our capacity.


To foster a movement that cultivates, encourages, and educates diverse communities to be inclusive and compassionate through awareness and understanding.


We foster awareness, understanding, and acceptance through education, support, and leadership.


  • Education
  • Diversity
  • Respect
  • Dignity
  • Community
  • Empowerment
  • Transparency
  • Inclusion
  • Compassion

The Stigma-Free Society has created this new position – Operations and Engagement Manager – and we require an astounding leader to help take our organization to the next level. Stigma-Free started as a grassroots initiative by Andrea Paquette – SFS President – and the Charity and has since been gaining significant traction. We now find ourselves at a pivotal point in our growth and require an experienced and strategic Operations and Engagement Manager who can help the Non-Profit reach its objectives.

This exciting opportunity requires a visionary and someone who thinks big. SFS is seeking a candidate who has experience in the field of mental health in their work and operations management expertise.

Job Description and Responsibilities

Society Operations

  • Identifying the resources necessary to achieve the organization’s goals derived from donors and fundraising activities.
  • Create a long-term strategy for Society’s HR sustainable planning.
  • Evaluate and monitor the Society’s financial health.
  • Produce quarterly reports to the President that demonstrates viability of the organization and goals for growth.
  • Work with the President and Grant Writer to assist in implementing the Society’s fundraising strategy.

Strategic Planning and Leadership

  • Adheres to Society’s Strategic Plan and implement benchmarks to manage the Society’s goals, delegate tasks, and track metrics.
  • Analyzes and improves systems, policies, and processes.
  • Work alongside the President to help execute the Society’s strategic plan for 2022 and beyond.


  • Build relationships with rural-indigenous schools, organizations to promote uptake of programs.
  • Build relationships with current districts and schools to promote uptake of Student Toolkit and virtual presentations – secure District partnerships and identify a Champion(s) for the districts.
  • Build and maintain collaborative partnership activities with Society’s partners.
  • Work alongside the President in guiding a marketing company to create a long-term marketing strategy.
  • Work with President and partners on Northern BC Expansion for School and Rural Toolkit programs.

Staff Management and Relations

  • Manage staff/contractors’ operations such as performance evaluations, SFS Champions Program, communications with market stakeholders.
  • Coordinate all aspects of marketing such as collaborating with Digital Marketer, Web Developer, Marketing Company to ensure successful performance and outcomes.
  • Organizes and plans professional development activities for staff.
  • Help train new presenters and work with Program Manager to execute Virtual Stigma-Free Presentations Program.
  • Train and work with Program Coordinator to learn Society’s new virtual presentations’ booking system.


  • Spearhead the Winnipeg expansion project and work with staff and key players in meeting program goals.
  • Manage Nationwide Peer Support Program and ensure uptake and delivery of program.
  • Lead the 2.0 Revamp for the Rural Mental Health Toolkit.
  • Basic web development in WordPress and Elementor is an asset but not necessary.
  • Basic design skills in Canva is an asset but not necessary.
  • Perform administrative tasks as required.


  • Master’s Degree in Non-Profit Management or equivalent education is required.
  • 5+ years working in a management role in a related non-profit organization with a budget of 1 million+
  • Knowledge of practice management processes, efficiencies, standards, metrics, and benchmarks.
  • Work remotely and have track record of working successfully from home.
  • Advanced level literacy in MS Office

Required Skills

  • Possesses a self-directed attitude and an ability to work independently.
  • High Producing and work in a timely manner.
  • Understands financial management, planning, prioritizing, and supervising others.
  • Demonstrates sound judgment, good problem-solving skills, and effective decision- making abilities.
  • Establishes and maintains effective work relationships with all stakeholders.
  • Communicates effectively, both verbally and in writing.
  • Be open-minded and willing to learn from different perspectives while taking direction from the President of Stigma-Free Society.
  • Have a positive, respectful attitude and a willingness to operate in an authentic manner.
  • Maintain a professional demeanor as the Operations and Engagement Manager representing the image of the Stigma-Free Society in the community.
  • Be flexible and open to conducting tasks that allows for adaptability, versatility, and assistance to the President.
  • Strong multi-tasking skills to prioritize, organize and meet deadlines; and
  • Work between 9 am – 5 pm PST Monday – Friday (40 hours a week).

Compensation is discussed with applicant and determined upon Employee’s qualifications and competencies.

Thank you for your consideration and we are extremely eager to hear from you!

We hope you will help us create a Stigma-Free world.

Submit CV and Cover Letter to:

Andrea Paquette, President and Co-Founder, SFS


Deadline for Applications: Jan 20th, 2022, by 4 p.m. PST.  

Check out our website here with our programs and team:

Position is now filled and closed.

Men Experience Eating Disorders Too

Hi, my name is Sterling and I go by he/him pronouns.

I am an established mental health advocate and a proud Stigma-Free Society Presenter. I am writing this to share a glimpse of my lived experience of mental illness, recovery, and mental health advocacy.

I have always batted high levels of anxiety for as long as I can remember. I did well in elementary school, however, I always had my anxiety disorder looming over me. When I made the transition from elementary to high school, I found the increase in academic and social stress to be overwhelming. In an attempt to cope with the stressors,  I turned to something I thought I could control, my food and exercise habits. This desire to control my food and exercise habits quickly spiraled into an obsession and within months I was admitted to my local hospital in a life-threatening condition. 

This experience began a vicious cycle of hospital admissions and treatment programs for several years. One aspect of my battle with an eating disorder that I struggled to come to terms with was the stigma that surrounded my diagnoses.

I am a man and, as a result, I did not fit the stereotypical person diagnosed with anorexia.

 I felt so much shame about my mental illnesses that every time I returned to school from a hospital or a treatment program, I “lied” about why I had been in hospital for so long. When I left school early to go to an appointment with a therapist or doctor, I felt embarrassed.  Every time I cried or needed extra help or support, I thought I was weak and did not live up to the stereotypical “tough man” that I thought I had to be. I also faced invalidating comments from my classmates, who told me there was “no way I could have an eating disorder” or “I don’t look ‘anorexic’”. 

I internalized all of those painful feelings because I thought no one would understand.

In my grade 12 year I was hospitalized yet again and applied to university in hospital. It was then that I made the conscious choice to ask for more intensive support and I decided to commit to recovery. The COVID-19 pandemic cut my treatment program short and made recovery initially more difficult. Through asking for more virtual support, day by day I got closer to my goal of attending a university that fall. In addition to the long and challenging recovery from my eating disorders that I faced,  I also had to battle the stigma that I internalized. 

Battling the stigma that I internalized meant changing my perception of what it meant for me to live with mental illness. In my recovery journey, I learned that having a mental illness does not make me or anyone else “weak” or “crazy”. In fact, I learned that living with and battling mental illness is a sign of strength. I discovered that seeing a therapist and taking medications to treat my mental illnesses does not make me any less of a man. 

I did make it to my goal of going to university, and now I am a chemistry and psychology double major at Trent University. After being well on my way to recovery, I decided to work towards becoming a mental health advocate. I am involved in various advocacy organizations at my university and beyond.

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to continue to share my lived experience through the Stigma-Free Society. 


Sterling Renzoni 

Stigma-Free Society School and Community Presenter

Don’t Miss the Stigma-Free Silent Auction! Open Until May 9th

We’ve Added to the Fundraiser!

The Stigma-Free Society’s Hope and Help Fundraiser for Mental Health has a new silent auction component!

The Stigma-Free Society is excited to announce the Mini Silent Auction as part of our Hope and Help Fundraiser for Mental Health! Mental health is such an important cause to be supporting, now more than ever. We need your help to grow and expand our initiatives that tackle mental health stigma, and stigma in all forms!

The fundraiser now has 3 components:

The Stigma-Free Stories Premiere Documentary (BUY TICKETS HERE),

The Live Stream Stigma-Free Marathon (DONATE HERE), and now the Mini Silent Auction!

The silent auction, which began on April 29th 2021 and ends May 9th 2021 at midnight, provides you the opportunity to bid on auction items from local BC vendors! All of the proceeds of this auction will go towards our impacting mental health initiatives and resources.

Some of the amazing auction items include: 

  • A $100 Gift Certificate to Robyn Constantia Designs
  • A $50 Gift Certificate to Good Omen
  • A $75 Gift Certificate to Luna Collective


Supporting this fundraiser will go directly to contributing to:

  • Program Development
  • Program Delivery
  • Helping our Charity adapt through this difficult time of COVID-19 and allow us to continue offering valuable educational mental health resources
  • Marketing and promotion of our programs by expanding the reach of the program.
  • Supporting our Stigma-Free Society staff financially
  • Engaging experts on mental health and education to enhance our programs

The programs you will be directly supporting include our Rural Mental Wellness Toolkit, Student Mental Health Toolkit and Virtual Stigma-Free Schools Program! Through your generous donation, we will be able to expand these resources and their reach in supporting the mental health and well-being of more people than ever!

Starting April 29th, join us for our Mini Silent Auction! And don’t forget to check out the other components of the Hope and Help Fundraiser for Mental Health!

Happy Bidding and Thank You to our Sponsors!

Join us at the Stigma-Free Society’s Hope and Help Fundraiser for Mental Health!

Mental health is such an important cause to be supporting, now more than ever. We need your help to grow and expand our initiatives that tackle mental health stigma, and stigma in all forms!

Taking place on May 5th 2021, this fundraiser event has a goal of raising $30,000 for our impacting mental health programs.

Here’s how your contribution will support this work:
  • Program Development and Delivery;
  • Helping our Charity adapt through this difficult time of COVID-19 and allow us to continue offering valuable educational mental health resources;
  • Marketing and promotion of our programs by expanding the reach of the program;
  • Supporting our Stigma-Free Society staff financially; and
  • Engaging experts on mental health and education to enhance our programs.

*The programs you will be directly supporting include:

Rural Mental Wellness Toolkit

Student Mental Health Toolkit

Virtual Stigma-Free Schools Program

Through your generous donation, we will be able to expand these resources in supporting the mental health and well-being of more people than ever! We are a Charity that is aiming for North American heights and we need your help!


The Fundraiser will have Two Components: 

  1. The Stigma-Free Stories Premiere Documentary – May 5th, 2021 @ 7:00pm (PST) (All Ages – Rated G)

 Click Here to Purchase Tickets for $25 each!


  1. Facebook/YouTube Livestream Stigma-Free Marathon – May 5th @ 10:00am – 2:00pm (PST)

This portion of the fundraiser will take place on two streaming platforms:

The Stigma-Free Society’s Facebook page and YouTube channel

More updates to come on this event!

Become a Sponsor of the Fundraiser:

If you want to get involved even more, you can sponsor the event! Sponsorship is also advantageous for you, and here’s how:

  • We will use our social media, websites, newsletter and more to promote your amazing foundation or business if you choose to sponsor us.
  • Number of Social Media Followers: 8,000+
  • Number of Newsletter Subscribers: 800+
  • All sponsors will receive Tax Receipts for amounts over $25 for their donation.

    You can donate to the charity directly by clicking here!

Check out the Fundraiser Tab on our website for more information about sponsorship levels from bronze to platinum!

At the Stigma-Free Society, we are continuously inspired by the support of our community. Your support is the reason that we are able to do such valuable and important work in breaking down stigma and supporting people’s mental health and well-being.

Thank you so much in advance for your support!

~The Stigma-Free Team

AutismBC Earns a Stigma-Free Zone Designation

The Stigma-Free Society is proud to announce AutismBC’s official designation as a Stigma-Free Zone!

Over the past year, AutismBC has been working with Stigma-Free Society in order to overcome barriers to full inclusion, diversity and equity within the organization. Having the awareness that their organization has room to grow in these areas was a powerful starting point to becoming stigma-free. From there, they have been working with Stigma-Free Society to make changes to their organization. Their efforts have not gone unrecognized by Stigma-Free Society, and we are so excited to announce their Stigma-Free Zone designation.

AutismBC has taken on inclusivity initiatives and made fundamental changes to their organization in order to achieve this designation.

Some of these important initiatives include:

  • Electing two new board members that will help them better represent their community’s diversity, launching a new website with inclusive language and content;
  • Supporting staff through the challenges of COVID-19 by doing staff polls;
  • Having open conversations about self-care;
  • Allowing for staff-led scheduling and workload adjustments;
  • Adding additional team connection meetings weekly; and
  • Showcasing a diverse range of community stories on their social media.

AutismBC’s Commitment to Inclusivity

Not only have there been practical changes made in the organization, there has also been a discernible cultural shift that has highlights inclusion, diversity and fostering a deeper sense of community. AutismBC is committed to continuing to embed a learning culture by having ongoing conversations about how to stay engaged in progressive discussions, receive feedback, and remain open to suggestions on improving.

All of these efforts and actions are why AutismBC has now been given the official title of a Stigma-Free Zone. These changes have occurred because of the work of individuals who are committed to ensuring that anyone seeking support from AutismBC feels as though they are being heard, acknowledged and represented by and within the organization. Understanding the importance of culturally reflective programming, stories, staff and resources to meet the needs of the diverse populations seeking support from AutismBC has driven these changes and created a new culture within the organization.

Julia Boyle, Executive Director at AutismBC, shares,

“I can see that the changes we’ve made and the culture we are building are working. We still have a lot of work to do, but luckily, we have great people to support us at Stigma-Free Society, and we get valuable feedback from our members and followers. Creating a safe space for non-judgmental discussion is at the heart of it; we’ve all been both humbled and empowered.”

AutismBC is committed to continuing to learn, listen and grow as an organization and Stigma-Free Society will be alongside them on this journey, supporting their efforts in every way we can. We are so grateful to be associated with an organization that is making tangible changes better serve their community.

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 Dhaliwal, Stigma-Free Intern, Adler University


Our School Presentations Have Gone VIRTUAL

What a year 2020 has been!

As with most everything and everyone, the Stigma-Free Society continues to adapt to rules and regulations dictated by this incredible global pandemic we are living through. We’d like to offer our sincerest gratitude to everyone in the Stigma-Free community who continue to support us, get involved and expand our message through our online Toolkits, lesson plans and now our Virtual Stigma-Free School Presentations!

While we didn’t ever see our education programs having to go virtual, this is a reality and is, in fact, one that we are excited to launch and grow!

Before Covid-19 became a global pandemic, our Stigma-Free Zone School Program involved an hour-long, in-person presentation to elementary, middle and high schools. Topics varied depending on the age-group but the overall goal was to bring awareness, education and acceptance of various stigmas to students, oftentimes focusing on mental health. Our School Program has been running for 10+ years, reaching 50,000+ students across British Columbia, Canada.

We have always received extremely positive feedback from our in-person school presentations, so when Covid-19 became our reality, our team worked to develop a new way to continue to provide awareness and education to students through a virtual platform.

The most incredible thing? We truly believe that our new Virtual School Presentation Program will open doors to getting information and education to more schools and therefore – more students.

How Does it Work?

In our Virtual Stigma-Free School Program, educators and school counsellors will either receive 10+ professional documentary style short video clips (each 3-10 minutes in length) or one lengthier 50-minute professional documentary, depending on what topic(s) the school/educator/counsellor decides to focus on.

These videos encompass mental health topics and personal stories, accompanied by a Step-by-Step Guide for Educators with questions and activities for students.

After the videos are shown, one of our Stigma-Free Society Presenters joins the conversation with students via Microsoft Teams or Zoom (or whatever virtual platform your school uses) to provide an additional 10-15 minute presentation on their personal story. Subsequent to sharing their story, our presenter then provides an interactive Q&A session on the documentary and/or their personal journey.

For more information on our Stigma-Free Virtual Presenters, please CLICK HERE and scroll down to see all our presenters listed along with their strengths and topics of expertise.

In Summary, the Virtual Stigma-Free School Program includes: 

  • Pre-Lesson Plans that educators or school counsellors can use before the day of the Interactive Q&A session with Stigma-Free Society Presenters, including additional helpful resources and activities.
  • A Step-by-Step Guide for Educators to help guide students through the professional documentary style videos. This document includes“Guiding Questions” to help the educator/counsellor on the day that the interactive Q&A takes place.
  • The Documentary Style Video(s) decided on by the school/educator/counsellor in an easy-to-find format to help educate your students about stigma and mental health.
  • A Virtual Interactive Q&A with one of our Stigma-Free Virtual Presenters.
  • Follow-Up Stigma-Free Activities document, sent after your Presentation to help educators/counsellors continue the conversation on stigma and mental health throughout the year.

We hope that you’re as excited about this incredible opportunity as we are! If you think your school might like to participate or if you’re a parent that wants to get your school involved, please email us at for more information.

Parents, educators, counsellors – let’s make sure our kids are educated on stigma, mental health and how to be kind, supportive individuals for life – not only as a maneuver through this global pandemic. What your child learns in our Virtual Stigma-Free School Presentation can be used throughout their entire life – let’s keep education on mental health at the forefront of our minds for years to come – these presentations could be the simple start to valuable life-long education.

Let’s get to it!

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS

16 Ways to Boost Your Mood & Mental Wellness

The Covid-19 global pandemic has changed the way most of us live our lives. While we maneuver our way through month after month of new restrictions, it’s taken a toll on many people’s mental health. The way we used to live our day-to-day lives has changed drastically and although it is hard to keep up,  stay positive as there are many things you can do to boost your mood and mental wellness at home.

It’s important to understand that there’s a beautiful quartet of brain chemicals that boost your “happiness” in a day, these include: serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins (a personal fav).

So, what can you do today to boost your happiness brain chemicals?

Well, many situations cause these chemicals to be released and flow through your body, however there are ways for you to naturally increase this flow, so let’s get to it!


Serotonin is known as the “happiness chemical” and is a neurotransmitter that affects many functions in the body and brain. One scientific theory is that serotonin helps regulate stress and anxiety and may also promote patience and the ability to cope. Serotonin is responsible for good mood, happiness, well-being, better sleep and regulation of digestion.

Seems pretty important right now, right?

There is a lot of research on how to boost serotonin levels naturally but we won’t get into the nitty gritty of that research in this article (it’s just too much). The important thing for you to know is that low levels of serotonin are often seen in people with anxiety and depression so it’s important to boost serotonin levels today and reap the rewards of this incredible chemical.

Serotonin levels are affected by stress, exercise and sunlight.

There are many simple ways to boost serotonin levels and increase its flow, these include (but are not limited to):

  • Moderate exercise for 30+ minutes
  • Get outside and feel the sun on your face
  • Eat food that includes tryptophan (hello, turkey dinner!)
  • Practice mindfulness and gratitude


Dopamine is known as the “pleasure chemical” and it has a major role in our feelings of pleasure and reward. Dopamine acts as a motivator to take action towards achieving a goal and rewards you with a boost of pleasure when you achieve them. In short, dopamine helps us release the energy we need to get the rewards we want.

It’s a big ‘ol surge of pleasure in response to achievement.

To increase the flow of dopamine, you can try the following:

  • Set small, manageable and achievable goals and “baby step” your way to a larger goal. Each time you achieve one of your “baby step” goals, you’ll get a dose of dopamine
  • Celebrate little wins every day
  • Eat foods that have high levels of dopamine (e.g.banana, avocado, plantains)


Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone”, the “cuddle hormone” and is considered to be a “bonding” chemical. It’s that hormone in your body that fills you with warmth and ooey gooey feelings of adoration and love. The release of oxytocin creates trust and strengthens relationships.

Touch is one of the keys to releasing oxytocin in your body. So, while hugging and touch is restricted during the pandemic, you’ll need to find different ways to get this hormone flowing through your body.

To increase the release of oxytocin, you can can try the following:

All of the above suggestions should boost your oxytocin levels and make you feel a little more loving toward yourself and others – an important part of emotional resilience and managing life during Covid-19.


Endorphins are known as the “painkiller” chemicals in the body. They are released in the body in response to pain or stress and also help alleviate anxiety. Not only do endorphins alleviate pain and anxiety, they also work to boost your immune system and improve your mood.

The great news about endorphins? They’re an easy chemical to release in the body by doing simple things that will help improve your overall health.

To increase the release of endorphins, you can try the following:

  • Exercise at a moderate to moderate/high intensity
  • Laugh – laughter truly is the best medicine
  • Watch a comedy/something funny on (there’s that laughing piece again)
  • Eat dark chocolate or something spicy
  • Use aromatherapy – particularly the smell of lavender and vanilla have been shown to release endorphins.

The above 16 ways to increase your quartet of happiness chemicals don’t need to be done all at once, but you can certainly incorporate quite a few into your day.

For example, start your day with writing down three things you’re grateful for, then go for a 30-minute jog outside. Follow that with  a lovely shower with some lavender soap and then crawl into some soft pajamas and snuggle on the couch with a loved one to watch a show that makes you laugh.

Ta da!

You’ll have many lovely chemicals flowing through your body on a day like that!

Take care of yourself right now as best you can and try to implement a few of the strategies listed in this article to help you feel happier, more focused and motivated.

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager & PhD in Exercise Physiology

The Importance of Mental Health Education in Schools

Early social and emotional development lay the foundation for resiliency throughout the lifespan. However, 70% of adults with mental illness see symptoms emerge in childhood and adolescence.

Some facts you should know…

• Mental illness affects approximately 1.2 million youth in Canada.
• By age 25, that number increases to 7.5 million (1 in 5 Canadians).
• The current generation of youth are experiencing the highest rates of mental health issues ever seen.
• Marginalized youth experience even higher rates of mental health concerns due to the intersection of several factors including violence, and poverty.

Mental health challenges are often pervasive, impacting many developmental outcomes. Poor mental health can have several detrimental effects on children and youth. Not only can it impact academic performance and success, but it may also interfere with social relationships and physical health.

Children who suffer from mental illnesses are at greater risk for adult onset physical health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. They are also more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system. There is no health without mental health. That is, if our youth are not mentally well, they will not be physically well and their ability to positively impact our society will be impaired. Despite an increase in the availability of mental health resources such as counselling and various treatment options, rates of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression continue to rise.

What can we do about this mental health crisis?

The solution lies, in part, in our schools.

To ensure optimum growth and development, mental health education needs to begin during early school years. During this time children form their first friendships and teenagers are shaping their self-worth and self-esteem. Growing up, youth are faced with a host of challenges including exclusion, bullying, conflict, and poor self esteem. It is important that we acknowledge and equip children with the tools needed to manage these challenges. In a combined effort between mental health professionals, parents and teachers, students’ mental health can be greatly improved, thus setting the stage for a healthier and happier future.

Some of the main reasons we, at the Stigma-Free Society advocate so hard to bring mental health education into the school are for the following reasons:

1) A primary goal of mental health education is to increase awareness. This involves teaching children what mental health means, and how to maintain positive mental health. It is vital that youth understand the concept of self-care and that they are responsible for their own mental health. In addition, emphasis should be placed on the idea that mental health is an integral part of overall health and well-being.

2) Another goal of mental health education is also to teach children, parents, and teachers how to recognize mental health related issues in themselves and others. When mental health problems are left undiagnosed or untreated, it can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms and negatively affect a child’s ability to grow and learn. Along with an increased understanding of the importance of mental health, children should be provided with strategies and tools to cope with mental health challenges.

3) Early intervention of mental health issues can also make a world of a difference. Small changes in behavior and thinking often occur before major mental illness appears. These early warning signs can be noticed by teachers, family, friends, and the individuals themselves, but only if they know what to look for. Some of these signs are mood changes, nervousness, withdrawal, and a decrease in academic performance. Early intervention can reduce the severity of the mental illness. It may also delay or even prevent the development of a major mental illness.

4) Mental health awareness can save lives. This issue of suicide and self-harm among teenagers is quite alarming. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 15 – 24. Bringing awareness to the symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses can help teens identify these issues and seek help before it is too late. By including education on mental health and information on how and where to access help, school can quite literally save lives.

5) Education can help serve to eliminate stigma. Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets an individual apart. These people are defined by their illness and associated to a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes toward stereotyped groups can lead to feelings of blame, shame, hopelessness, and distress. By educating our youth about mental illness, we begin to normalize mental illness conversations and the stigma surrounding it begins to dissipate.

In conclusion, the prevalence of mental illness in youth is increasing with each generation and we, as a society, have a responsibility to protect our children as best as we can.

Mental health education in schools can significantly impact students current and future mental health. It can also contribute to eliminating stigma and foster resiliency through the awareness of mental health. The benefits of this type of education is insurmountable.
Schools have the ability to promote positive mental health by building self-confidence and self-esteem. It is essential that children are taught about the importance of mental health, how to recognize signs of poor mental health, and how to seek out assistance for any mental health challenges.

By talking about mental health, we can promote greater acceptance and understanding which will in turn increase help-seeking behavior.
Mental health education in schools is extremely valuable as it can positively impact the lives of our children and youth. Please connect with us if you’re interested in bringing some mental health education to your school or classroom.

We’re happy to help you start the conversation.

Author, Cosette Leblanc, Intern, Stigma-Free Society