‘Know your worth’: Queen’s student named L’Oréal Paris Woman of Worth

Ampai Thammachack talks mental health advocacy 

Step Above Stigma now a nationally recognized charity.
Credit: 
Supplied by Ampai Thammachack
Ampai Thammachack, MA ’22, was named L’Oréal Paris Woman of Worth this year for her work in mental health advocacy.
 
“The L’Oréal award means the absolute world to me because for a very long time I didn’t understand my worth,” Thammachack said in an interview with The Journal. 
 
“The L’Oréal award has given me the opportunity to send the message that ‘you’re worth it’—not only to myself—but to hundreds of thousands of people across Canada.”
 
Throughout her life, Thammachack has struggled with her mental health. Without access to education or the resources to identify the issue, she found herself stuck in a “stigma.”
 
“After struggling with mental health for most of my life without understanding what I was really going through, and after seeing my family suffer, […] we just didn’t know that education,” Thammachack said. 
 
Thammachack founded Step Above Stigma—a charity that aims to improve access to mental healthcare—in 2017. The organization now has chapters at four Canadian Universities. 
 
“I got the idea just to raise some funds so I could show solidarity with mental health,” she said. “[Our logo] had a semi-colon with a heart, which stands for resilience.” 
 
According to Thammachack, after executing one successful fundraiser, she decided she could do a lot more to make “systemic change” within the community.
 
“We’ve done just around 500 events and campaigns to spread awareness about different mental health issues that aren’t talked about,” she explained.
 
From mental health in seniors’ homes to first-year students, Thammachack said it’s important to address issues of mental health and stigma through an intersectional lens.  
 
Thammachack also touched on gaps that needed to be filled regarding mental wellness on campus. According to her, there’s a need to highlight mental health advocacy in marginalized groups. 
 
“If you don’t really structure the system, and if you don’t get more funds into it, I don’t think things will ever properly change the way you need them to,” she said. 
 
For Thammachack, it’s been especially important to work with the administration, donors, and provincial and federal governments to change policies that create barriers. Recently, Step Above Stigma has formed a student research task force to address policies like these.
 
“[We’re] truly trying to work this policy from the top so that universities won’t have to struggle to get the funding and structure they need to help the amount of students that need it,” she said. 
 
“It’s really important to have mental health care for groups who are marginalized on campus, because it’s hard to access help [when] you don’t see a service provider that looks like you or that you think can relate to your experience.”
 
Thammachack reiterated the importance for students to continue prioritizing their mental health. 
 
“One of the biggest things is that through all the stress of school, mental health really does matter,” she said. “It has to come first before you give to others.” 
 
“I think it’s really crucial to listen to yourself, listen to your body, because your body’s telling you when you’re overwhelmed.” 

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