Principal Rob House signs the Stigma Free pledge banner at Spectrum Community School on Wednesday. The Spectrum Philanthropy Club has planned a monthly schedule of awareness campaigns to break down different stigmas, such as mental health and religion. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Club wants Spectrum to be first stigma-free school on the Island

Earning the designation as a stigma free zone takes a year, worth it, say students

A group of Spectrum Community School students is seeking to make the high school Vancouver Island’s first “stigma-free zone.”

The newly formed Spectrum Philanthropy Club, a group of mostly Grade 12 students, invited Robyn Thomas from the Stigma Free Society to help kick off the initiative last Wednesday morning.

Thomas addressed some 300 Spectrum students in the drama theatre about her own story of mental health, overcoming PTSD, and what can be done to break down certain stigmas including mental health, along with all negative stereotypes, she said.

“We’ll work with the school for the year to help it work towards being a stigma-free zone,” Thomas said. “It’s a process and at the end we’ll designate the school a stigma-free zone.”

Thomas then joined the club in the school’s front foyer during lunch, while the club invited students and staff to sign their giant stigma-free pledge banner. The movement coincides with Spectrum staff’s own initiative, Spec-Respect.

“We formed this group out of our social justice class that was supposed to happen but didn’t have enough people,” said club member Ethan Badr, in Grade 12. “We’ll hold an event every month, I think it’s really important.”

The school population is already a relatively positive group with low rates of homophobia, racism or judgment regarding mental health, Badr said. But the goal is to make being stigma free a part of the school’s ongoing culture. One way they’ll do that is by holding a presentation for all Grade 9s (Spectrum is Grade 9 to 12) at the beginning of each school year, starting in 2018.

For this year, the club has launched a season-long calendar which will identify different stigmas each month.

For example, in December the group will build awareness around religion as the month holds significant meaning in Christianity, Judaism and other beliefs, said Grade 12 Jalen Smith. January will focus on mental health, which picks up on the momentum from Bell’s Let’s Talk Day.

The banner will come out again and will soon be posted in the school, Badr added.

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