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You are Invited to our Stigma-Free Zone Community Event March 20th, 2018

Victoria to Become First-Ever Stigma-Free City in Canada: Community Event

In partnership with the City of Victoria, the Stigma-Free Society is hosting a Stigma-Free Zone Community Event on March 20th, 2018. The purpose of this event is to ignite dialogue around mental health and stigma, and to announce that the City of Victoria is committing to working toward their Stigma-Free Zone designation for City hall and eventually the city itself.

The event will take place on March 20th from 6:00pm to 7:30pm in the Garry Oak Room at the Fairfield Community Centre, 1335 Thurlow Rd. Elected officials, community leaders, general public and media outlets are invited to attend.

Mayor Lisa Helps and Councillor Jeremy Loveday will discuss the importance of mental health and strategies to make the City of Victoria a Stigma-Free Zone. Andrea Paquette, President, Stigma-Free Society, and Robyn Thomas, Community Development Manager for Vancouver Island, will also share their authentic and honest journeys through mental illness and stigma.

The Stigma-Free Zone Movement was co-founded by Andrea Paquette, President and Stigma-Free Society and Dave Richardson, Board Chair, and the movement is focused on Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island in an effort to turn awareness of stigma into concrete actions.

“The City of Victoria’s commitment to become a Stigma-Free Zone is a significant step and we hope that other cities throughout BC and eventually Canada will follow,” says Paquette.

Schools, businesses/ organizations, and geographical areas may all be designated as a Stigma-Free Zone. Specific stigma-reducing activities, hosting mental health presentations, as well as conducting a needs assessment are examples of the criteria involved in becoming a Stigma-Free Zone.

More information on Stigma-Free Zones may be found at: www.stigmafreezone.com
The Stigma-Free Society is a registered Canadian Charity with a true grass-roots history, born in Victoria in 2010. The Society has designed programs providing education about stigmas with an emphasis on mental health, and offers peer support for those facing mental health challenges.

You must register for the event to attend, so we can determine refreshments and such. 🙂

CLICK LINK: REGISTER HERE

Teens2Twenties Support Group Inspires Resilience

“Knowing that I’m not alone in my struggles makes a huge difference”, writes one of the youth from our Teens2Twenties Support Group—our drop-in program for youth dealing with mental heath challenges. The group runs every Thursday from 7:00 – 8:30pm at the Quadra Village Community Center in Victoria, B.C.

With mental health at the forefront of many awareness campaigns, it is easy to forget that many people still suffer in silence. Even though the conversation has started, many of us with mental health challenges often feel isolated and afraid.

Working with youth who are dealing with so much adversity, yet still showing up and bearing their souls, is so inspiring to me. To come into a room full of strangers and open up about what’s really going on beneath the surface can be so intimidating, especially when social anxiety is part of the equation. Even as the group facilitator, I often find it difficult to be really honest about where I’m at sometimes.

We’re so conditioned to say that things are fine, to avoid being a “downer”, to not take up too much time.  Yet it is exactly in taking that time to open up, and risk being seen, that other people start to feel less alone. Some space can open up to feel a little lighter, to realize that even if things aren’t all good, they are still going to be okay. I love the sense of humor that young people have. Things can be challenging, but there is always something to laugh about. I have learned so much about resilience since working with the youth that attend the Teens2Twenties Support Group.

Something I love about our group is that people are open to trying new things. We’ve gone on sunset hikes, attended poetry slams, and discovered some tremendous artistic talent during art nights. Mental health challenges can make social outings difficult, but they don’t have to be a barrier. Especially when we know we’re not alone in our fears.

When we are not fighting to get by on our own, we have the strength and compassion to lift each other up and keep going.

With appreciation for the Teens2Twenties Support Group participants, I applaud and appreciate you.

~Robyn Thomas, Lead Facilitator, Teens2Twenties Support Group

Hope is the Bird who Feels the Light and Sings while the Dawn is still Dark

Bonjour, I’m Pauline. It’s a privilege to offer my experience to your understanding of bipolar disorder and dual diagnosis with substance abuse. I once self medicated with alcohol, but now have 11 years of sobriety. May I begin by respectfully acknowledging the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations on whose traditional and unceded territories I live, work and play.

I’m a 55 year old mother of three, Nani-Ji to a half Punjabi Grandson, and I’ve spent 35 yrs being the wife of a saint. I’m a daughter, sister, friend, teacher, mentor and colleague. Many people are affected by having this ‘soul sickness.’ Besides social dysfunction, I have suffered from denial, which presented a barrier to accessing care and finding interpersonal healing.

In the last 16 yrs, I have been on 10 medications, and now fine tuned on three. Honing my insight, I am at my healthiest yet, with the expertise of my psychiatrist and psychologist. In my own mind, it is far easier to relinquish alcohol and gain a clear mind than give up the highs of mania. I had resisted adequate treatment fearing “a root canal of my soul”. To compound denial, my eccentricities were encouraged by all except those closest to me. I was lauded for my flamboyance, generosity and humour. Coercion to step up treatment occurred in 2014, when for one day, I found myself psychotic after many sleepless nights in pain. I was rescued by my family and kept safe in five point restraints over night. This, my only hospitalization, lasted 1 month. Besides avoiding hospitalization, the imperatives to accept aggressive treatment also included avoiding depression and dementia, both associated with brain burnout from the highs. Less ups means less downs.

Depression is waking to the disgust within the nostrils of my rotting body. It is the compulsion to take all my pills and slip under the bath water, a profound inertia confining me to days of indecision and bird watching from the sofa. Where can one find hope? In the words of Tagore; “Hope is the bird who feels the light and sings while the dawn is still dark.”

For patients suffering, hope in mental illness is the gift that treatment extends into the darkness. To the many scientists and clinicians who have played a part in this miracle of healing, I give my deepest gratitude. Treatment resulted in dampening my inner world of symbols and connections. Purpose and significance, I now share with others. I am abstinent of spirituality; which has been replaced with reasoned atheism and measured forays into transcendence. I still write poetry, but much less prolifically. And I am more objective about their quality.

Ecstasy is replaced with peace.
Unpredictability becomes constancy.
Impulsivity is stayed with pause.
Multitasking concedes to completing one.
Irritability softened into patience.
Restlessness is answered by acceptance.
Overconfidence yields to humility.
Bragging surrenders to confidentiality.
Interrupting quiets for listening.
Over-sharing is set aside for curiosity.
A monologue of opinions opens to dialogue.
Gregariousness settles in self-contentment.
Flirtation returns to loyalty.
Extravagance levels into moderation.
Risk taking is tempered with caution.
Selfishness imbued with empathy.
Insomnia crushed by sonorous coma.

I don’t miss drinking whatsoever, but I do miss my highs. I doubt myself when I am feeling good, worried I am escalating. Rebuilding self-trust is by one deserved day at a time. I am grateful to have got a grip before I lost everything I cherish. I am thankful for effective treatment, for wholeness and the chance to renegotiate my identity and rediscover my soul.

~Pauline

MLA Linda Reid – Stigma-Free Zone Movement – BC Legislature

Linda Reid, MLA, Richmond South Centre, shares about the success of the Stigma-Free Zone Movement in British Columbia.

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!

SHAW Community TV Special – Stigma-Free Society

SHAW TV sits down with Andrea Paquette, Robyn Thomas and Jacquie Gonzales to talk about the Stigma-Free Society. Thank you so much Daphne Goode for all of your support over the years.

 

 

Pacific Autism Family Network – Stigma-Free Zone with Ambassador Lucas Gates

Pacific Autism Family Network is the first charity in Canada to be working toward their Stigma-Free Zone designation.

They have a team of Stigma-Free Champions that includes Lucas Gates, Ambassador, Laura Lombardi, Vice President, Foundation and additional staff members with the support of Co-Founders Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia and Sergio Cocchia.

The Stigma-Free Society is excited to be working with this very effective organization and having all of the Stigma-Free Zone criteria complete in the upcoming months.

 

Children’s Mental Health Program

“Is mental health when your tooth hurts?”, this is one of the endearing answers I received when talking to grade 4’s about mental health and stigma.

While I love talking to teens and adults, the elementary kids I speak to since launching our Children’s Mental Health Presentation Programming have a special place in my heart. Grade 4 is the age when I started experiencing my own mental health challenges. I went from a happy kid who loved school and soccer and anything creative to one of the many people who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, more commonly referred to as OCD.

Many people are shocked to learn that elementary school kids often struggle with their mental health. Aren’t they too young to be depressed? Shouldn’t they just be worrying about life on the playground? Well… like anything mental health related, it happens a lot more than we’d care to think.

But hey… that’s okay! The moment we take away the stigma associated with mental health and teach kids from an early age that it’s just as acceptable to talk about a sprained ankle or a sore tummy, we can equip them with the tools they need to take care of themselves and to reach out for help when they need it.

Even as a ten-year-old I somehow sensed that the intrusive thoughts and painfully time-consuming compulsions I was experiencing weren’t “normal” and were something I shouldn’t talk about. Because of the lack of education and awareness around mental health then, I kept my burden a secret. I still had good grades, I was still “achieving”, but I was also deeply suffering.

When we add stigma to mental health challenges, it’s a scary obstacle that is hard to face. But when we strip away the shame and silence that give it power, mental health issues are just like any other challenge—hard at times, but surmountable. And like any challenge, if treated with the right care and compassion, a person can transform that pain into empathy and strength.

Program Summary: Click HERE

 

 

Blog Author, Robyn Thomas, Children’s Mental Health Education Program Presenter

Program Funded by the Edith Lando Foundation

Natalie’s ‘Coming Out’ Story…

So I guess this is my ‘Coming Out’ story, as I have spent the past few years battling with my identity; the illness vs me. Now it’s time to come clean to my wider circle of friends and family, and perhaps to myself as well.

The signs of bipolar were always there, a diagnosis merely highlighted the facts. I was often met with the label of ‘too intense’, ‘hypersensitive’, and in some cases just pure ‘crazy’. The lookers and pointers where always quick to tell me something was wrong, but until I decided to realize it for myself, everything was just ‘fine’; fine with roller coaster highs and fine with lows that could not be reasoned with. Until now.

Now I stand proud with my bipolar label.

What does this mean for me? A bipolar diagnosis sheds light on some of my past thoughts and actions and it now puts my future into perspective. I take daily medications and use self-care strategies. I work on a colour-coded mood scale, that depicts my darkest and brightest states. I never thought I would be so at home with a label, a chart, even an identity, but you see bipolar is not my identity, it is deep rooted in who I am as a person. A person full of love, happiness, creativity and excitement. Someone who, with the aid of said colour-coded-chart, can pin point her mood at any given time and proactively see the potential pitfalls coming her way and react to them accordingly.

Coming to terms with, and accepting this illness has been by far my hardest task to date – even given some of my most intense episodes and hospitalizations. The realization that there is a manageable life to this eternal illness and having the strength to push on with, and uphold the strategies I need to stay in a safe place, has been nothing less than an epiphany.

So here I stand, guilty of the highs that send me into psychosis and allow me to talk to god, as well as the lows that dig a bigger hole than a JCB excavator! I no longer anguish over the past, but instead, look forward to the future. I now know I can take each day for what it is with the help of some very strong and supportive family members, friends and helpful local organizations such as Stigma-Free Zone. I have returned to University in a bid to learn this illness inside out, I continue to hold down a job and care for my four-legged friend Sandy the Chiweenie (although she may well be the caregiver). I recognize the difference between self-care and selfishness and continue to grow as a person, each and every minute.

I’d never wish this illness upon anyone, but for now I am happy to say it is very much a part of me.

I am Natalie, a daughter, a friend, a lover, and I proudly manage, not struggle, with a disorder called Bipolar 1. I am Natalie, and I have bipolar.

VGH UBC Hospital Foundation – Me Too Conversations Vol 6 – February 23

SAVE THE DATE:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

VGH_MeToo_Vol6_poster_VancouverThe statistics are not changing. One in every five Canadian is affected by mental illness and the stigma is as strong as ever. ‘Me Too’ is bringing some of the brightest minds and speakers to the table to continue the conversation and smash the stigma. Join us for our final event of this six-part series.

For Me Too Vol. 6, our key note presenter is sports broadcaster and talk show host Michael Landsberg, who will share his own personal experience with depression and the ways in which stigma has impacted his journey. You’ll also hear from Kimberly Rutledge and others.

Expect to leave this event feeling inspired and hopeful, with a better understanding of what stigma is and how we can take action to bring mental illness out into the open.

SPEAKERS 

Michael Landsberg
Michael Landsberg is one of the most prolific and recognizable sports broadcasters in Canada, having hosted nearly 10,000 TV shows over his career with TSN/CTV. In 2009 he shared, on air, his struggle with severe depression and saw first-hand the tremendous impact his sharing had on others. Blessed with exceptional insights and a passion to make a difference, he tells his journey to whoever will listen, coining the phrase #sicknotweak to describe how he sees mental illness. In 2014, Michael was honoured with the Humanitarian Award at the Canadian Screen Awards. To this day, he remains committed on a daily, even hourly basis to sharing his struggles without shame or embarrassment, so others will be empowered to feel the same.

Kimberly Rutledge 
Kimberly Rutledge is 20 years old and currently studying science at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna. She is a huge advocate for mental health as part of www.jack.org and believes that there is so much power in conversation. It is her hope to curate change by creating positive spaces where there is an open dialogue and no more silence.

Monica McAlduff
Monica is currently the Director, Vancouver Mental Health and Substance Use Acute, Tertiary and Urgent Services with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). As an avid advocate for clients and families, her current focus includes improving patient care in the Psychiatry setting and involving Family and Clients in Clinical Practice decisions about their care. Monica has over 20 years of experience in Health Care: Mental Health and Substance Use, from front line nursing through to her current leadership role. For the past several years, Monica has led the Vancouver Mental Health and Substance Use Redesign which is transforming mental health and substance use programs and creating greater access for all Vancouver adults. Monica is a member of the Douglas College Psychiatric Nursing Program Advisory Committee and works within her community and abroad challenging and inspiring health service providers to create better access to services for all populations.

EVENT DETAILS:
Date: Thursday, February 23, 2017
In-person: Doors 6:00pm | Start 7:00pm
Live webcast:  7 pm PST | view the event from this web page
Where: SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts – 149 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC

RSVP
To RSVP for this event, please email [email protected]

Join the Me Too conversations online by sharing ‘me too’ stories on Twitter with the hashtag #MeTooVan and by tagging @VGHFdn

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Recovery is possible. Want to start taking action now? Download our PDF to join the conversation on mental health and find out where to go for support.

This event is sponsored by the Andy Szocs Foundation, Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, Vancouver Coastal Health and VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.

Source: http://vghfoundation.ca/