Written by Summit Team Member, Ana Djurkovic.
One of the highlights of my year was being a part of the team that created the Step Above Stigma Summit! We wanted to host a summit, a day that would ideally give delegates an opportunity to educate themselves on the intricacies surrounding mental wellness and reflect on their mental well-being. The wonderful idea of hosting the Step Above Stigma Summit was inspired by the Jack.org Summit last year, after which two exec team members thought, “why don’t we do something like this?” and just like that, the Step Above Stigma Summit came to be.
The theme of our summit this year was wellness. We wanted to encompass as much as possible on the topic of mental health and we chose to take a more personal approach, where delegates would be able to really take a day and focus on how they can acknowledge their mental well-being and also learn about topics that would apply to their lives.
The summit was hosted on a beautiful and sunny Saturday in late February, of course, over Zoom. Still, regardless, spirits were high, and the day was a success! The day started with the wonderful founder of Step Above Stigma, Ampai Thammachack, speaking about her mental health journey and what inspired her to start Step Above Stigma. It was the perfect start to the day and led us right into our first speaker. Carrie Watson, an eating disorder therapist, discussed the prominent and important topic of non-dieting and body positivity, giving delegates a brief understanding of the destructive diet culture that we are surrounded by. Next, Nicole German from The Maddie Project hosted an interactive session discussing how our mental health has changed during the pandemic, giving the delegates time to reflect on their mental health in recent months. Afterward, Julia Glowinski from Straight Up Health, presented a fantastic workshop on the importance of sleep and how it impacts our mental health.
The second part of the day was packed with even more speakers and workshops, further leading discussions on mental well-being! Aaron Edgeley shared a touching personal story on his combat with his mental health and how focusing on physical health helped him overcome his battles. Next, Lee Richard from Queen’s University International Center, led an essential discussion on culture and raised awareness on the variety of cultures in the world around us. This was followed by a discussion by Dr. Arunima Khanna, a clinical psychologist at Queen’s University, who
explored various aspects of social identity, race, ethnicity, and culture in association with mental health. Then, Maria Fudas, a certified assertiveness life coach, led an empowering workshop on getting in touch with oneself. Finally, the summit was topped off with a wonderful meditation guided by Queen’s Spirituality, Yoga and Meditation Society!
Overall, the summit was a collection of enriching experiences that brought together various individuals who were able to take some time and reflect on their mental well-being! We are hopeful that the delegates had an educational and motivational experience, taking the time to get in touch with themselves and even getting a few prizes along the way!
Although a great success, planning the summit was not an easy task. The stress of securing speakers, delegates and figuring out all the intricacies needed to produce the summit was on everyone’s minds. This came with scheduling conflicts, the fear of Zoom fatigue, and overall, the nervousness that comes with any big project. Ultimately, the team came together and persevered, hosting a fantastic summit and collectively supporting one another!
What’s next? Another summit, of course! For the 2021-2022 year, I have the pleasure of leading the Step Above Stigma Summit as Summit Head! I am so excited to get started and see what amazing things the summit team will have in store for next year!