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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. 

Author,

Sterling Renzoni 

Stigma-Free Society School and Community Presenter

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

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

 

5 Ways to Boost your Mental Health in 35 Minutes or Less

Let’s face it – some days you just feel crummy.

Whether you had a terrible sleep, you’re stressed out or you just woke up in a negative mood – bad moods and negative mental health days happen.

The good news?

There are quite a few ways you can positively impact your mood and put yourself in a better, more positive state of mental health.

Even better? You can bump your mental health into a more positive space in a short amount of time.

TRY THIS!

Move your body. You don’t need to move your body for a prolonged period of time – even just a 5-minute energy boost can bump your mental health.Set a timer for 5-minutes. Press start. Complete 20 high knees, 20 squats and 20 jumping jacks on repeat until your 5-minute timer indicates your time is up. Then, grab some water, give yourself a high five and let the endorphins work
their magic.
= 5 mins

Drink some water. Hydration is extremely important on days when you’re feeling sluggish or blue. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, irritability, lightheadedness and inability to focus. Drinking 1L of water over the course of 30 minutes will help combat dehydration and the negative effects it has on your mental health.
= 5 mins to drink 1L

Pro-tip: Try to drink 3-4L of water per day to stay on top of your hydration!

Get outside into the sun. Taking yourself outside and into the sun has many mental health benefits including reducing stress and improving cognitive function. The sun also helps anchor your body’s internal clock, regulating healthy appetite, sleep and your
metabolism – all key factors in maintaining a positive state of mental health.
= 10 mins

Eat a nutritious meal. Put the sugar away and grab yourself a healthy snack because sugar negatively impacts brain health and healthy food positively impacts brain health! Try a salad full of vibrant vegetables with some protein (e.g. chicken, tofu or fish) and a sugar-free salad dressing. Then, let the vitamins and nutrients work their magic on your mental health.
= 10 mins

Call someone you love and trust. Sometimes all we need is a little connection with someone who makes us laugh and feel good. Reach out to a friend or family member and talk about the fun you’ve had in the past. Reminiscing about good times filled with fun and joy can significantly boost your mood.
= 5 mins

TOTAL TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOU?

35 mins!

…and some of these things you can do together like sitting outside in the sun while talking to your loved one.

Bad moods or negative mental health days happen, but there is a lot you can do to try to boost yourself into a more positive mindset.

We have a Mental Health Checklist that you can print off and go through on days when your mental health is not as positive as you’d like it to be on our COVID-19 Youth Wellness Toolkit.

Finally, for more ideas on how to manage your mental health, please CLICK HERE and check out our 10 Tips for Managing Your Mental Health.

Thank you for reading!

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS

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 a $2000 scholarship to be allocated toward their educational pursuits.

This is the third 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 2021 Semester.

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.

Applications are now closed.

Thank you.

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

 

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS