The Stigma-Free Society is a non-profit registered Canadian Charity first created in 2010. Although it began as the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia, in 2016 it changed its name to the Stigma-Free Society to encourage discussion about many kinds of stigma. Currently, this non-profit focuses on raising awareness of multiple stigmas, with a special focus on mental health.
One of their initiatives, the Stigma-Free Zone Movement, involves raising awareness about stigma in order to develop understanding and encourage acceptance within the community. Additionally, the Stigma Free Society gives school and community presentations across Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. In these presentations, they focus on what stigma is, how it affects different groups of people, and what life is like for those who experience stigma. Their work impacts schools and businesses, including individuals in the trans, non-binary and queer community, as well as individuals with mental illness. The Stigma-Free Society provides a variety of support groups for those who have experienced mental health challenges, which includes groups for teens and for adult women. Staff in the Society have lived experience with mental health challenges and are trained in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.)
The Society joined the Community Partnership Network in April of 2018. Robyn Thomas, the Community Development Manager (CDM) and School and Community Presenter, outlined the value of joining the CPN: “The Stigma-Free Society is committed to breaking down stigma of all kinds and encouraging inclusivity. Personally, I am very keen on attending the diversity training sessions to improve my own awareness and education. I am also interested in connecting and collaborating with other like-minded organizations.”
Robyn shared some of her personal experiences of working with the Stigma Free Society. Building a community within the support group, and seeing participants grow, has been extremely rewarding for her. Robyn values the transformation that participants undergo, “At first, some might need a lot of support and now they are able to support others”.
Robyn Thomas Classroom presentation