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Mental Health Strategy for Canada: A Youth Perspective

Purpose

DID YOU KNOW…

MORE THAN TWO-THIRDS OF YOUNG ADULTS LIVING WITH A MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEM OR ILLNESS SAY THEIR SYMPTOMS FIRST APPEARED WHEN THEY WERE CHILDREN?

That makes child and youth issues an especially important topic in mental health, one that the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) recognized early on when it created the Youth Council in 2008.

WHO ARE WE?

The MHCC’s Youth Council (YC) represents young people with lived experience of mental health issues, whether personally or through family or friends. YC members are selected from across Canada with consideration given to the following: age and gender; province or territory of residence; cultural background; First Nations, Inuit, or Métis background; linguistic background; siblings or family members of persons with mental illness; experience with the child welfare system; sexual orientation and/or gender identities; or youth at risk with issues in housing, addictions, and/or the justice system.

WHAT DO WE DO WITH THE MHCC?

  • Advocate for young people with mental health issues.
  • Get involved with local, provincial, and national youth mental health networks.
  • Bring a youth perspective to MHCC projects.
  • Speak on behalf of youth at MHCC events.
  • Promote recovery and inspire other youth at public events.
  • Make sure youth have a voice in the decisions being made about Canada’s mental health services and policies.
Methodology

It took us two years to write this version. We looked at every priority and recommendation in the Strategy and rewrote them keeping our target audience in mind – Canadians who might not find current mental health policy documents accessible. We highlighted youth-specific examples to reflect our own experiences, but certainly there are more that could have been included to reflect the needs of people of all ages. Before starting, we had to think about a number of things:

  • How can mental health policies be written to make better sense to Canadians directly affected by the mental health system, services, and supports?
  • What examples of best practices could make the Strategy more meaningful to anyone engaged in mental health policy discussions across Canada?
  • What parts of the Strategy’s recommendations are most relevant to youth?
  • How can a youth perspective on the Strategy inspire mental health system change and a sense of hope and optimism in young people?

In order to reflect the histories of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis (FNIM) in Canada, the YC also consulted with FNIM youth groups who helped us write certain sections from culturally relevant and safe perspectives. We understand that in order to truly transform Canada’s mental health system, the needs and challenges of Canada’s FNIM populations must be recognized and reflected in future mental health policies. We expand on what we mean by this in Strategic Direction 5.

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