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Stepping up to help others

Queen's student Ampai Thammachack named one of the Top 22 Under 22 Most Inspirational College Women in the World by Her Campus.

[Ampai Thammachack]
Ampai Thammachack, a third-year kinesiology student, was recently named one of the Top 22 Under 22 Most Inspirational College Women in the World by Her Campus. (University Communications)

Ampai Thammachack went through some large challenges in her life. However, she says she is proud of them because she has been able to turn negative experiences into tenacity and determination.

Now, in a better place thanks to some key mental health support and her own resilience, the third-year kinesiology student is using her experiences to help others.

As a result, Thammachack was recently named one of the Top 22 Under 22 Most Inspirational College Women in the World by Her Campus, a U.S.-based website.

She is the first Queen’s student to be named to the list.

As a teen in Bedford, N.S., Thammachack struggled with her self-worth and suicidal thoughts. Eventually she received the help that she needed and regained balance in her life.

Looking to help others in similar situations, she founded two charities that have grown and made a difference in numerous lives. A key message that she wants everyone to realize is that when it comes to mental health, help is necessary – and that’s all right.

Being recognized has been a wonderful experience, she says.

“I am still so shocked. It still feels so surreal and I am so over the moon happy about knowing that what I’ve started is starting to make the difference I hoped it would,” she says. “It makes me so happy because it makes all the bad things that happened feel so much more worth it. I went through a lot and it was so painful. It’s the type of thing that you feel that you will never come out of it. You feel like your life will never be normal again.”

Yet, her life did become normal again, once she got the help she needed.

Thammachack started her first charity as she started Grade 12. Called the Glass Slipper Organization, the group collects donated prom dresses and then gives them away to high school students who cannot afford the $200-$700 price tag for a new dress.

“The whole point of starting this organization was to try to make a girl feel special, to make a girl fell like her community has her back,” she says.

In the past three years, the Glass Slipper Organization has given away more than 500 dresses across Nova Scotia and is looking to expand across Canada.

[Step Above Stigma]
Ampai Thammachack started up Step Above Stigma, which is aimed at eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health issues. (Supplied Photo)

After finishing high school, Thammachack then started up Step Above Stigma, which is aimed at eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

The key problems, she says, are that people are too afraid to get help and that many mental health organizations are severely underfunded.

“I thought that the best way to help out was through a project that could simultaneously solve both problems,” she explains. “So I designed socks – because who doesn’t need socks – that say Step Above Stigma on the bottom, and then they have the mental health symbol, which is the semi-colon with a heart, on the leg. The socks are sold across Canada and they make mental health more normal by having people wear this symbol on the socks and hopefully start conversations about what they mean.”

All the funds raised go to mental health organizations working directly with patients, to help fund projects. Step Above Stigma also does countless advocacy events and campaigns throughout the year to help end the stigma on Queen’s Campus.

The Step Above Stigma team has now grown to 18 executives and 50 volunteers and there are now branches at universities, colleges, and high schools across Canada.

Read Ampai Thammachack’s profile at HerCampus.com.