MHCC Youth Council
The MHCC created the Youth Council in 2008 as a way to listen to young people (age 18 to 30) who have lived experience with mental health problems or illnesses, either personally or through a family member or friend.
With more than two-thirds of the adults who live with a mental health problem or illness reporting that their symptoms began when they were young, it’s essential to understand their needs and experiences to improve our mental health system.
In addition, while about 1.2 million children and youth in Canada are affected by mental illness, less than 20 per cent will receive appropriate treatment. By age 25, one in five Canadians will have developed a mental illness.
Youth Council members seek to:
- Advocate on behalf of young people with mental health problems or illnesses
- Engage with youth mental health networks
- participate in MHCC projects
- represent the voice of young people at MHCC and public events
- promote recovery and inspire others.
Food for thought: A youth perspective on recovery-oriented practice
Join the conversation: #MHCCyouthcouncil
Emily (she/her, they/them) is a mother and First Nations woman with European ancestry from the west coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. As a mental health advocate, consultant, facilitator, she focuses on supporting equity-seeking groups, people who have experienced trauma, and those facing systemic barriers to accessing quality care.
Currently, she coordinates Planned Parenthood NL’s 2SLGBTQIA+ Warm Line, a free and confidential peer support service operated by and for people of all ages in the queer community. The peer support services she provides use a recovery-oriented and trauma-informed lens while respecting the unique challenges faced by those who hold intersectional identities. Emily is also a program assistant for the Community Food Helpline program at Food First NL, a non-profit organization that seeks to improve food security in the province.
As a content expert on youth mental health, Emily co-chaired the oversight committee for the Improving Integrated Care for Youth (IICY) Initiative with the Health Standards Organization. They have also served on various advisory groups, including the executive advisory committee for the National Standard for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students and the MHCC’s Psychotherapy Policy Implementation Network. They hold a B.Sc. (Hons) in psychology from Memorial University and an MA in psychology from the University of Toronto.
Myriam Lecousy is a queer Jewish Moroccan woman born and raised in Montreal. She joined the Youth Council in 2017 in the hope that sharing her lived and living experience would reduce stigma and discrimination around youth mental health within minority groups in Canada. In March 2022, she was elected co-chair.
Passionate about mental health advocacy, Myriam believes in holistic and collaborative approaches to fostering change. She has gained expertise in the field by working in clinical, community, and governmental organizations with clients such as marginalized youth, 2SLGBTQ+ communities, and at-risk individuals, while specializing in crisis intervention and policy change for better access to mental health care.
Myriam is currently pursuing doctoral studies in clinical and community psychology at the University of Quebec in Montreal. She specializes in suicide prevention programs and interventions for children and youth, using an intersectionality lens to guide her research and clinical work. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and the social studies of medicine at McGill University and a graduate diploma in child and youth work at Concordia University, where she was trained to provide psycho-educational assessment and specialized treatment plans. In addition to serving as a crisis worker for the past few years, Myriam is pursuing training in dialectical behavioural therapy at the Grey Zone Psychology and Wellness Centre.
Alexandra (she/her) is a mental health advocate, consultant, and researcher. Drawing on her 19 years of lived experience, she has provided strategic, policy-related, service, and operational advice across governmental, private, academic, and non-profit sectors while advocating for stigma reduction, patient autonomy and empowerment, and preventive, integrative, and patient-centred care, regionally, nationally, and internationally.
Her work as an advocate and consultant began in 2015, after being invited to advise for the BC Integrated Youth Services Initiative, a pilot project to create youth-centred mental health and wellness clinics across Western Canada. Over four years, Alexandra provided recommendations on its development, implementation, and operationalization, as well as on the creation of Foundry’s interactive online service navigation: Foundry Pathfinder. In 2017, she was appointed as chair for Foundry Kelowna’s Youth Advisory and Action Committee, where she led youth involvement in mental health policy and implementation. Her work at Foundry has given her the chance to speak at conferences and charity events, facilitate and participate in discussion panels, and feature in media campaigns, including Foundry’s provincial campaign to end stigma.
Alexandra’s advocacy and advisory work has also led to appointments on national and international committees, including at the World Health Organization’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and the Global Mental Health Peer Network’s Country Executive Committee, which led to her participation in lived experience consultations for the Lancet-World Psychiatric Association Commission on Depression. In 2022, she was one of just three persons with lived experience worldwide appointed to the Lancet Psychiatry-MQ Mental Health Research standing commission on COVID-19 and mental health research.
Alexandra has a bachelor of arts and sciences from Quest University with a major in neuropsychiatry and liberal arts, well as an M.Sc. in international health policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She currently works as a mental health and well-being consultant at International SOS.
Nimkiins ndizhinikaaz bineshiinh ndondem Okikendawt ndonjiibaa Anishinaabe nini ndow.
Connor “Little Thunder” Lafortune (he/him) is from Dokis First Nation, situated on Robinson-Huron Treaty territory of 1850 in northeastern Ontario. He is entering his final year at Nipissing University, seeking to complete a double honours major in Indigenous studies and in gender equality and social justice, along with a minor in legal studies.
Connor has worked with the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation to create a life promotion toolkit for Indigenous communities across Canada. He is currently undergoing Feather Carrier training in the hopes of continuing his work in the life promotion area. Since the creation of the toolkit, he has had the opportunity to speak at the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) Conference, and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction’s Issues of Substance Conference, among others. While doing so, he has been a part of various life promotion groups aiming to promote the lives of Indigenous youth across Turtle Island.
As a research assistant, Connor works with queer youth in Quebec who use cannabis and is a frequent presenter at Indigenous, mental health, harm reduction, and cannabis-related conferences. Previously, he co-authored an Indigenous undergraduate policy paper through the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, which aims to give a voice to Indigenous post-secondary students. He believes in a strengths-based and human-first approach to all things.
Apart from the Youth Council, Connor sits on a number of boards, including for the Schizophrenia Society of Canada’s Cannabis and Psychosis project, the Anishinaabek Nation’s Youth Council, School Mental Health Ontario, and the First Peoples Wellness Circle’s Indigenous Students’ Mental Health Advisory. He prides himself on being an advocate, writer, poet, and performer. Connor aims to tell Turtle Island’s whole truth by sharing stories as an Indigenous, queer, and francophone person.
Garrett is a public health professional from Edmonton, who provides crisis support and connects people with non-emergency social, health, and government services for the Canadian Mental Health Association. This work has led to an interest in ways to better support unhoused individuals who experience addiction and mental health concerns while facing systemic barriers to care.
He is also continuing previous work as a peer navigator with Edmonton’s Community-Based Research Centre at HIV Edmonton by serving as a capacity building facilitator, a role that has helped him to recognize the value of lived and living experience when providing support to community members. Out of this work, Garrett’s deep appreciation for peer support has grown in conjunction with an interest in its uses in mental health support for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals. He is also interested in advocating for policy change to increase cultural competency among mental health care providers to better respond to mental health concerns in 2SLGBTQ+ communities. He is very passionate about his work with the Youth Council and the opportunity to use his experiences to advance mental health equity.
Garrett holds a master’s degree in public health with a focus in health policy and management from the University of Alberta.
Manvinder Kaur Gill is a community-based researcher whose work is centred on religion, culture, colonialism, and health. She holds a BSc. and a BA (hons.) from the University of Winnipeg. Her MA in religious studies from McMaster University aimed to understand the intersections of alcohol and Sikhi, particularly considering influences of colonialism, gender, and intergenerational trauma. She has held research fellowships at Delhi University and the University of Victoria.
She is currently a SSHRC-funded Master of Social Work student at the University of Toronto where she holds a research assistantship on a project titled “Border(ing) Practices: Systemic Racism, Immigration, and Child Welfare” and is completing a clinical and research internship at Women’s Health in Women’s Hands, a community health centre providing primary health care to Black Women and Women of Colour from Caribbean, African, Latin American, and South Asian communities in Toronto. Her work aims to reimagine colonial narratives and direct energy towards frameworks of love, sovereignty, and fostering spaces of co-learning. She is the co-founder of Asra: The Punjabi Alcohol Resource (asranow.ca), a youth-led grassroots initiative bringing her research into practice.
Venice is a disabled non-binary community activist based in Sudbury, ON. They focus heavily on doing work with marginalized poplations such as LGBTQIA+ people, people experiencing homelessness, people with mental health and addictions related issues, people of colour, people who have experienced trauma, and the intersections of those identities. He does on the street outreach work in his community for people who use drugs, and is a harm reductionist. She has a variety of lived experience that has guided her to a role of wanting to help others within their community and is passionate about intersectionalizing mental health and addictions resources. Venice has provided peer support to friends, family, and community members for many years, and intends to take up a career in social services and continue doing peer support and outreach work with homeless and impovrished communities.
Venice experienced their first symptoms with mental health issues at 6 years old, and was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder at 14. They greatly believe that the most important and empowering thing you can do for people dealing with mental health and addiction issues is to share knowledge and educate people on a basis of compassion and to be trauma informed in doing so; and that sharing his experiences with mental health and addictions as someone with intersectional identities will pave the way for others to feel comfortable to join the discussion. Venice is an eager go getter who is looking forward to giving voice to those often silenced by cultural and societal barriers, and cannot wait to further work with the youth advisory council to affect change on a national level.
Madina is a Registered Nurse in Vascular Surgery at the QE II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She has leveraged her ten years of lived experience with mental illness to become a strong advocate for mental health promotion, stigma reduction and suicide prevention. She has a special interest in LGBTQ+ youth and people with disabilities. For over six years, Madina has presented at local, national and international conferences on topics such as how to better engage young patients in their care, how to reduce barriers to accessing care, and how to foster youth mental health. She is certified in Mental Health First Aid and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills (ASIST).
Madina represents the Youth Council on the Steering Committee for the MHCC Guidelines for Recovery-Oriented Practice and she promotes the implementation of the MHCC’s Post-Secondary Mental Health and Psychological Safety Standard by post-secondary institutions in the Maritime Provinces.
She volunteers for the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, the Canadian Postsecondary Partnership to Reduce Alcohol Harms, Dalhousie University Student Health Promotion, and Stay Connected, which is an innovative program that facilitates the transition of adolescent mental health patients into the adult mental healthcare system. She also volunteers on the IWK Health Centre Family Leadership Council, the Medical Services Quality and Patient Safety Committee, the Health Centre Hand Hygiene Champions, and the Climate Driven Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee of the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing.
At a young age, Manish immagrated to Canada from Mauritius with his family. Now, hailing from Surrey, British Columbia, Manish is an active member of numerous mental health programs, while pursuing his studies at the University of British Columbia. Drawing from his own lived experiences, Manish has become a staunch supporter of increasing the accessibility of mental health care, especially for individuals with marginalized identities. Some of his most meaningful experiences have come from working at a peer support center and crisis line in his community. Moreover, he has worked with refugee and immigrant support and re-settlement groups in Vancouver. Hearing countless stories similar to his own has motivated Manish to advocate on behalf of communities he identifies with, namely LGBTQ2S+ individuals, people of colour, and newcomers to Canada.