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Mental Health of Emerging Adults

Who are emerging adults?

The developmental life stage from late adolescence to early adulthood (16-25) is referred to as emerging adulthood (EA). This stage is also when early symptoms of diagnosable mental health problems and illnesses most often emerge. It is also when EAs face the most barriers in accessing service and supports. Unfortunately, because EAs are often forced to transition out of youth services around the age of majority (18-19, depending on the province or territory), many emerging adults are not able to access vital services and programs at a time when they need them most.

Appropriate and adequate care during this developmental period can positively impact the lifetime trajectory of a young person’s mental illness and wellbeing. This is why it is important to invest in early interventions directly aimed at young people targeting the prevention of mental illness and the promotion of mental health.

Consensus Statement on the Mental Health of Emerging Adults

Drawing on the recommendations outlined in Taking the Next Step Forward: Building a Responsive Mental Health and Addictions System for Emerging Adults, the MHCC hosted the first Canadian Consensus Conference on the Mental Health of Emerging Adults: Making Transitions a Priority in Canada in 2015 to create an open dialogue and generate a broad consensus on their unique mental health needs. Facilitated by the MHCC’s Knowledge Exchange Centre, the conference brought together 200 emerging adults, their families and caregivers, service providers, and policy makers from across the country stakeholders from across the country to develop a consensus statement with concrete recommendations to  advance policy and services for EAs in Canada. The conference Jury and EA panel identified a number of foundational characteristics of a reformed system – one that is better able to meet the mental health and problematic substance use needs of emerging adults.

After deliberating for two and a half days, the Jury presented its draft consensus statement to delegates who then discussed it in groups and plenary. The statement included guiding principles and a set of recommendations for improving mental health outcomes for emerging adults. The conference delegates and EA panel urged amendments to the principles and recommendations to acknowledge current racial and other inequities experienced by emerging adults.

The feedback from conference delegates was considered by the Jury and EA panel in the months following the Conference. These deliberations resulted in 12 synthesized recommendations in the final Consensus Statement on the Mental Health of Emerging Adults, organized under three broad categories:

  • Foundational to change
  • Addressing service gaps
  • Generating action and sustaining momentum

The principles and recommendations put forward in this consensus statement are aimed at those who have a role to play in improving the mental health of emerging adults, particularly those who have influence over policy making and the funding of services across the health, mental health, education, justice, child welfare and social service sectors at national, provincial/territorial, regional and local levels.