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Kingston activist receives L’Oréal Paris Canada Women of Worth Honour 

Ampai Thammachack – Submitted Photo

Ampai Thammachack, the founder of Step Above Stigma, a Canadian charity organization, was named one of the honourees of L’Oréal Paris Canada’s annual Women of Worth philanthropic initiative. 

Thammachack started Step Above Stigma after struggling with undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and watching her friends and family struggle with their mental health and suicidal ideations without the education or resources to provide support. 

“I wanted to create something that could not only educate and advocate but could build community and create lasting systemic change,” Thammachack stated.

Step Above Stigma was formed at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, to improve the accessibility of mental health care across Canada. All funds raised through the organization go to initiatives and charities working to improve the mental health of vulnerable populations. 

Thammachack’s venture is run by over 200 volunteers across Canada with a mission to de-stigmatize, revolutionize and redefine what it means to have mental health issues or struggle with mental illness(es). The organization also sells merchandise designed with motivational messages and signage to help raise awareness and advocacy regarding mental health. 

“Mental health is just as important as physical health,” noted Thammachack. “L’Oréal Paris’ recognition has galvanized Step Above Stigma’s momentum towards our goal: making mental health care the accessible and necessary form of health care it should be.”

Each L’Oréal Paris Canada’s Women of Worth honouree will receive a $10,000 grant for their non-profit cause.

Thammachack also shared that stigma to mental health-related issues exists in many forms. One of those is the social stigma that society places on mental health, and the other is self-stigma which consists of negative names and terms we place on ourselves, eventually making us feel less worthy. 

“I believe the stigma surrounding mental health has certainly lessened. I am so proud and thankful for the millions of people who have worked to get us to where we are today. However, there are still many things we can do to create a virtually stigma-free society,” she added, emphasizing the importance of encouraging vulnerability, open discussion, and education to normalize mental health and ensure access to necessary support and resources. 

Thammachack has been involved in non-profit work since 2015 with her first venture called the Glass Slipper Organization, which collected and donated over 1000 prom dresses to students in financial need. Her co-founder, Stephanie Manuel, another Queen’s student, has worked hard to expand the Glass Slipper Organization into a community foundation with three branches. The Glass Slipper’s goal is to ensure all students feel celebrated despite socioeconomic status. 

“Everyone deserves the Cinderella experience,” Thammachack said. 

About being a Kingstonian, she expressed, “Thank you for being such a welcoming and beautiful home to me and the initiatives my team has hosted over the last six years. I want anyone reading this to know that sometimes knowing your worth is hard, and sometimes it can even seem impossible to believe in yourself and see your potential, and that is okay, but never give up on yourself.” 

Women of Worth recognizes the outstanding achievements of non-profit Canadian leaders. Other honorees this year include Dr. Daphne Nahmiash, president, Handicap Vie Dignité; Gwen Madiba, founder and president, Equal Chance; Joëlle Kabisoso, founder & executive director, Sisters in Sync; Kathryn Hong, founder, The Girls SySTEM; Linda Gauthier, co-founder, president and spokesperson, RAPLIQ; Pam Farrell, founder and executive director, GROW; Shandi Strong, 2SLGBTQ+ activist and mentor, PRISM, Big Brothers Big Sisters; Tara Torchia, owner, Angels Ink Foundation; and Vedanshi Vala, executive director, BOLT Safety Society.

Read more about all the honorees on the L’Oreal Paris website.

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