Queen's student featured in Top 22 Under 22 Most Inspirational College Women

Step Above Stigma founder Ampai Thammachack reflects on journey, sets new goals 

Ampai Thammachak is the creator of Step Above Stigma. 
Credit: 
Supplied by Ampai Thammachak

Last fall, Queen’s student Ampai Thammachack, Kin ’20, was named one of the Top 22 Under 22 Most Inspirational College Women in the world by campus blog Her Campus.

Each year, the U.S.-based online publication Her Campus selects female students from across the world who use their voice to make a difference within their communities. Thammachack sent in her application 10 minutes before the deadline, not believing she had a chance of being selected.

I’m still really shocked, it means the world,” Thammachack said. The third-year is the first Queen’s student to make the list, and was recognized for her two organizations: Glass Slipper and Step Above Stigma (SAS).

In her senior year of high school, she started Glass Slipper to provide formal wear to girls who couldn’t afford the costs of celebratory school events, including graduation and prom. The club organizes give-away events at libraries across Nova Scotia.

“Every girl deserves to feel special and beautiful—no matter what’s going on,” Thammachack said in an interview with The Journal. In its last four years, the group has given away 500 dresses.

After graduating from high school, she started SAS to combat the lack of funding for mental health services across Canada and reduce the social stigma that prevents people from accessing resources. She was inspired by her own experiences with mental health services.

“I’ve been through quite a few traumas in my life, and I got to a point when I was just feeling worthless—I didn’t matter,” Thammachack said.

In high school, Thammachack was connected with mental health resources after telling her guidance counsellor she didn’t want to live anymore. Her goal through the initiative includes ensuring that if a student experiences something similar, they’re quickly connected to the right resources.

“I wanted to make sure that other people were able to get help quicker than I did,” she said.

Thammachack promotes the initiative’s brand on socks that are designed with the words “Step Above Stigma” across the bottom and the organization’s symbol—a semicolon with a heart in the place of the dot—at the back.

As part of Project Semicolon, mental health advocates use the punctuation mark—where a writer could end a sentence but decided not to—as a reflection of where someone contemplated suicide but chose to live instead.

The socks are sold primarily online and at the Tricolour Outlet. All proceeds are donated to mental health initiatives across Canada.

As a student, Thammachak believes everyone can benefit from greater access to mental health resources.

“Even if you don’t have a lot of stuff going on at home, being at school is hard. It doesn’t mean you’re soft—it just means that you’re a human being. If you’re okay, getting that extra help can be great,” she said.

However, she understands changes to resource availability on campus must come from the top-down, and sees a formal discussion as the next step forward.

“One of our biggest goals is to open up the conversation with administration,” she said. “[We’d] be thankful to have the chance to work together to create a better campus environment for everyone.”

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