By providing preventative education and empowering people to share their lived experiences with mental health, mental illness, and stigma, Stigma-Free Society (SFS) wants to eliminate stigma of all kinds. Offering tools and leadership to provide pathways to change, Stigma-Free’s goal is to create awareness, develop an understanding of the challenges people face, and encourage people to foster acceptance of themselves and of others.
Founded in 2010 with a mission to promote wellness education for young people, SFS advocates for the inclusion of mental health education in schools. Youth are often ill-equipped to face mental health challenges and the stigma or discrimination associated with conditions such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. There is a need and an opportunity to invest in digital outreach support for children, youth, and teachers in communities across Canada.
SFS offers the Student Mental Health Toolkit, a resource for students, educators, school counsellors, and parents/guardians on mental health and stigma. The Toolkit helps young people to learn and grow and provides educators with valuable information such as tailored lesson plans, downloadable resources and more. SFS’s virtual Stigma-Free presentations focus on empowering people with lived experience of stigma and mental health issues and Presenters share their personal stories with students across Canada. The Rural Mental Wellness Toolkit has valuable resources for individuals working in agricultural and living in rural communities. The Toolkit provides tailored information about mental health for rural residents, along with peer support training with a specific focus on rural communities.
Now virtual-only, SFS’s tools reach unlimited audiences. “The virtual presentations are just a different way of delivering the message,” said Andrea Paquette, president and co-founder of SFS. “Presenters share stories of facing and eliminating stigmas. It’s an innovative and engaging way to create social, emotional learning for young people, help them improve their mental health and ‘stomp out stigma’.”
The Courtnall Society for Mental Health’s grant will support program costs that enhance and maintain the Stigma-Free Society’s unique and engaging virtual programs.