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CSC youthexperts Online, Spring and Summer 2020

Who

Fourteen youth between the ages of 15 and 29 who live across Canada

What

A 12 week mentorship program for young Canadians with an idea to create positive change in the mental health of their communities. Each week we held different skills-based webinars to cover various topics related to project planning and personal development, and often included guest speakers who were experts on a particular topic. In between webinars, the youth were paired up with two of the four facilitators to have weekly check-ins and to help put the webinar learnings into actionable steps. 

When

Spring and Summer 2020

Where 

Virtually across Canada

Why

To expand our reach to include a more geographically diverse group of Canadian youth and to further deepen the program experience for our youth and the impact on their communities, we explored a different program model from our previous five youthexperts cohorts. This was the idea behind youthexperts online - to gather youth across the country in online workshops where they could inspire and support each other while receiving individualized mentorship towards their personal project ideas. It turned out that this online adaptation was well suited in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic (with the limited ability to hold in-person gatherings), and we found that our program filled a new need for mental health advocacy, human connection, and community involvement that young people could participate in from home.

Youth Partners

We posed the following questions to the youth team:

  1. Why did you get involved with this program?

  2. What are your goals for your project, or what impact do you hope it will have?

  3. One random fact about me is… 

Here’s how they answered: 

Aniqa, 29
  1. As a life-long learner, and a mental health and community advocate, I was looking for a program that integrates mental wellness, community building, mentorship, leadership and skill development. When I saw the mindyourmind posting, I just knew that this would be an exceptional learning opportunity for me to build networks and develop/work on my project idea.

  2. My project focuses on educating and enhancing the experiences of youth in conducting research and program evaluation, so that youth leaders are able to project manage, take feedback, and problem-solve matters in their community projects.

  3. I am a spontaneous photobug.

Ashley, 21
  1. I got involved with this project after seeing an ad on Instagram. After seeing the ad, I instantly knew I wanted to get involved as mental health is a topic that I’ve always been passionate about and advocated for, and I wanted to take a further step to make my own vision a reality.

  2.  At the time that I applied for the program, there had been 6 student deaths within a year on my university campus, and the university had announced a mental health crisis. My goal in joining this project was to gain skills and resources to help play my role to ensure that the student voices are being heard on campus, and that they know where to find everything related to mental health.

  3. A random fact about me is that I am obsessed with anything theatre/musicals/broadway

Ashwin, 18
  1. Mental health has always been a prominent topic throughout my life, especially when I was young. When I found out about this program I wanted to create a project that would make an impact on mental health in youth. Given my past history in band and music lessons, I wanted to blend these two aspects of my life into something that could be applied to youth.

  2. I hope that this project will spark more discussion about one's mental health among peers, as well as embracing a passion for music. Through practicing an instrument, I hope that they will not only achieve a higher level of success with their instrument, but also a higher level of confidence upon doing so.

  3. I have a dog (shih tzu) that's about 1 and a half years old.

Briana, 17
  1. I got involved in this project after seeing an ad on instagram. I have always been passionate about mental health and I wanted to make a project to help in any way I can. Mental health is and will always be really important to me and I found that it was a taboo subject which made it hard for youths to find the help they need so I wanted to break that barrier in any way I could.

  2. In this project I am making an online quiz to help youth and young adults find the type of help they might need and give resources as to where they could find that help.

  3. One random fact about me is I write poetry in my spare time

Gillian, 23
  1. I got involved with this program as I knew it would benefit the growth and strategy to support my women's empowerment initiative.

  2.  My goals are to learn more about grant writing and applications for our initiative to secure funds as that has been a major straddle for us, especially to provide programming that meets our desired caliber.

  3.  One random fact about me is that I love sushi.

Grace, 18
Leetal, 16
  1. I was introduced to the project by a friend of my mothers and was immediately interested. With my experience dealing with my own mental health, I knew that I wanted to help others in my community with a service that I feel as though would have been beneficial to me. 

  2. I’m a huge animal person, and my pets have really helped pull me through some tough times. I want to share that love with others in my community through my project, a service allowing people who may not get to regularly be around animals have time with registered emotional support animals. Eventually, I would like to extend this service to other places in Ontario (starting with Ottawa) and basically take it as far as i can and help as many people as possible!

  3.  A random fact about me is that I'm super into true crime. I love watching shows like Cold Case Files and Forensic Files and I even named my pet rabbit Ted Bunny!

Marissa, 24
  1.  This was a natural program choice for building community and connection in the mental health space on behalf of HERstory, but also I was so excited about diving into our current programming to make improvements.

  2.  I’m most looking forward to conversations around funding and grants, as well as how that applies to community groups like us without a charitable number!

  3. One random fact about me is... I appear on a Netflix show called Paranormal Survivor!

Maya, 15
  1. I got involved because I wanted to help people, make a difference and learn more about mental health

  2. My goal is to help at least one person. To show them that they are not alone, they don't need to end their life and that recovery is possible.

  3.  I love being outdoors :D

Melanie, 29
  1. I got involved in this program because I've been following mindyourmind for a long time and have always found their projects super interesting! As soon as I saw that there was an opportunity to receive support from mindyourmind and a group of like minded peers on launching a new project related to mental health, I was excited to apply.

  2. I'm a social worker who runs a private practice and I've found that a lot of people seeking mental health services don't know what the difference is to see a social worker versus a psychologist or a psychiatrist. While all mental health professionals are valuable, I think that knowing the differences between all of them is helpful to make sure that people receive the best service possible according to their needs and desires for support. My project is to create a podcast to teach people how social workers are mental health professionals and our unique perspectives on mental health. I chose a podcast format because it's fun, accessible, and appeals to a wide audience so I can be effective in getting my message out there!

  3. A random fact about me is that I have a black belt in TaeKwonDo and I won a World Championship when I was 16.

Oviya, 18
  1. I had originally learnt about mindyourmind from a booth at my university and I signed up for the newsletter, which is how I learnt about this fabulous opportunity! Having heard about the impact COVID had on incidences of abuse and violence, I wanted my project to tackle the problem of child abuse which has only been exacerbated with the pandemic and lack of social interactions through institutions like schools.

  2. An important aspect of responding to child abuse and neglect is identifying the signs and responding in an efficient and empathetic fashion. With this goal in mind, I have been working on a resource kit to help untrained community members effectively identify and respond to signs of abuse and connect children to social supports in the community. Through this project, I hope that every community feels equipped to respond to child abuse in an effective manner and feels confident with speaking up when they see abuse.

  3. An interesting fact about me is that I’ve recently gotten into swing dancing and that’s something I really enjoy doing!

Raffela, 24
  1. I got involved with this program because I’ve believed in my project for over a year, but I didn’t know how to bring it to life. I had the passion to create change, but I didn’t have the resources.

  2. I hope that my project will contribute to bridging the gap in the mental health system that prevents people from getting the support that they need.

  3. I don’t like chocolate.

Stacie, 26
  1. I got involved in the program to try and make a difference in the lives of post secondary youths’ mental health in Canada during this time of COVID 19.

  2. I hope to have my project reach as many post secondary students in Canada, to be able to give each other support through this difficult time. The peer-to-peer support will be key during this project.

  3. One random fact about me is that I have a degree in Kinesiology.

Vanessa, 24
  1. I got involved with this program with mindyourmind because I am passionate about youth mental health and wanted to find a way to bring my project idea to life so I could make actionable change in my community. I knew that through the coaching offered in this program, I would be closer to reaching my goal of improving people’s confidence in starting a conversation about mental health when they feel someone in their lives may be struggling.

  2. My goal for the program is to create a greeting card shop that holds a space for talking about mental health in a way that allows us to express support and empathy. These cards will be used to open up, as well as continue the conversation about mental health struggles, and will hold a strong focus on remaining inclusive to equity seeking groups such as the BIPOC community, Indigenous Peoples and LGBTQIA2S+ individuals. It is important to me that proceeds from each purchase of a greeting card will support Indigenous mental health charities.

  3. One random fact about me is I could eat a burrito basically every day of the week and not get tired of it one bit.