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The All Saints Stomping Out Stigma group formed in 2008 during a conversation in a cab ride home from a Mental Health Summit at Ontario Shores put on by the TAMI Coalition. The four students and teacher who attended were so moved by the experience that they felt a responsibility to bring awareness back to their own school community. The group collected fellow students and teacher advisors to form an SOS group in their school. The primary goal of the SOS group is to create a greater awareness of mental health and to dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding mental illness.

The SOS group meets weekly to plan and implement a “Mental Health Awareness Week” which takes place in late November. During this week, we conduct such activities as: poster campaigns, a “Stigma Wall” that brings awareness to the existence and danger of stigma in addition to ways of stopping it. We also have two TAMI assemblies, targeting Gr 9’s & 12’s (focusing on youth in transition) and a “Community Outreach Evening” where we invite students, parents and members of the community to the school to hear TAMI speakers. During our Mental Health Awareness Week we also set up a display of all our Library’s mental health resources in addition to pamphlets telling people where they can get help. Our bulletin board and celebrity posters also bring attention to the issue of mental illness. Many of our activities were taken from or inspired by the TAMI toolkit which we received at the Summit. In second semester, we are planning to visit feeder schools to help them start their own SOS groups.

Starting as a whisper, the SOS group has made All Saints a place where it is okay to talk about mental illness. The conversation has begun… the culture is changing and walls are beginning to be broken down.