I am passionate and extremely involved in mental health engagement in my community. I launched www.bipolarbabe.com in May of 2009 and created a logo with a talented artist titled ‘Bipolar Babe: Stomping out Stigma.’ Thereafter, I designed and distributed bipolar babe postcards, which read “Creating a World of Understanding, Empathy, and Acceptance for Those that Have a Mental Health Condition.”
Image courtesy of Bipolar Babe
Thus began my journey into the world of mental health engagement, and the results have been impacting and encouraging. I create conversations free of stigma in my community by having launched an online forum and a blog on the babe website and I networked endlessly to build my Bipolar Babe brand. I did not know what my efforts would produce, but it felt right when I was asked to speak at a non-profit mentorship program about my personal experience.
The presentation was so satisfying that I accepted further requests to speak, but in my heart I knew the people that I wanted to reach the most with my story were the youth. During this time, I also made my basement suite a place for youth with a mental illness to gather in a peer support group, which I called the Teens2Twenties. I engaged youth to help them in any way possible to stay well, form friendships, and most of all, share their own experiences for healing.
Through my active networking efforts, I met many supportive individuals along the way and we formed the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia (BDSBC) in January 2010. We received charitable status in June 2010, having our application received months later and approved in a mere 29 days.
We also worked tirelessly to create a variety show: Bipolar Babe Fundraiser, and so began our non-profit society with only a few thousand dollars in the bank. Our society has been in existence for over four years now and we have five programs dedicated to the service delivery of peer support and mental health education. We now have a staff of five and I moved quickly from the position of Board President to Executive Director of BDSBC.
The success of our programs and community engagement has been both impactful and effective. I lead the Stigma Stomp Classroom Presentation Program and we present to an average of 2000 students per year, and provide three peer support groups for countless people struggling with mental health challenges. I lead the majority of the program delivery by being a presenter and a group facilitator, but we also have excellent support staff members that make the programs possible.
Over the years we have accomplished many things, and have held numerous awareness events called “Stigma Stomp Day” and “Clara’s Big Ride: Hats off to Clara Hughes Fundraiser and a Daytime Legislature Welcoming Event.” I have been featured personally on local radio shows speaking to the issue of mental health, my personal story, and stigma numerous times. I have also been on several television news casts promoting our organization, and showcasing the work that we do as a society. We have also gained a significant amount of print coverage and all of these successes may be viewed at: http://bipolarbabe.com/news
Lastly, I have personally been extremely engaged in the mental health community by applying my writing abilities. I am a blogger for HealthyPlace.com for my blog called ‘Surviving Mental Health Stigma Blog.’ You may find this blog here. I also brought my community engagement a bit further by becoming a contributor/author to an anthology published by Brindle and Glass called “Hidden Lives: Coming out on Mental Illness.” I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to engage both with youth and adults in their mental health journeys, and I plan to continue building on both my writing career and community engagement work with BDSBC.
I also brought my community engagement a bit further by becoming a contributor/author to an anthology published by Brindle and Glass called “Hidden Lives: Coming out on Mental Illness.” I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to engage both with youth and adults in their mental health journeys, and I plan to continue building on both my writing career and community engagement work with BDSBC.
Andrea Paquette is founder and Executive Director of the Bipolar Disorder Society of BC, also known as Bipolar Babe in the community. She is a mental health speaker, published author, advocate and above all a Stigma Stomper. She created the Bipolar Babe Project with the introduction of Bipolar Babe in 2009.
Andrea has reached thousands with her message of hope and resilience in middle, secondary and post-secondary schools, workplaces, and throughout various community organizations and events. Her Bipolar Babe persona has reached great heights locally and internationally as she is the winner of Victoria’s 2013 CFAX Mel Cooper Citizen of the Year Award and the recent Winner for mental health Mentorship Award given by the National Council for Behavioral Health out of Washington, D.C.