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Let them Eat Cake: YMHAC End of the Year Meeting

YMHAC is a council of 10 young people (ages 16 to 25) with lived experience of mental health and/or addiction issues. They work to provide a platform for authentic youth engagement and involvement in the community.

Last Friday, the Youth Mental Health and Addictions Council (YMHAC) hosted their final meeting of the year. Unlike past meetings, this was a night to celebrate their incredible accomplishments as a council and to recognize their personal and collective successes.

This was an opportunity for the youth members to lead a meeting from start to finish- where service providers and other guests gathered around the table ready to listen and to learn. Each youth had a role in the evening, whether it was greeting guests and ushering them to the meeting room or using their voice to speak about the many projects YMHAC assisted in. Everyone was involved.

As well, this meeting allowed for YMHAC to share two videos they helped to create. The first video documented YMHAC’s mission and included messages from its members – about how they and the community they live in have been positively impacted by this council. The second video presented was for the Transition Age Protocol (a tool designed by youth for youth in mind, to aid in their transition from child and adolescent mental health and/or addiction services to adult services). This animated video was developed by mindyourmind and YMHAC provided feedback during different stages of its creation. It showcased that for many youth, transitioning is an overwhelming and confusing process and that they often fall through the cracks of the system. But with the protocol tool and support from service providers, a smoother journey between services is possible.

Following the videos, members shared the ingredients for YMHAC’s success, which included: adult allies, accessibility (re: building and bus tickets), food, honorariums etc. Members emphasized how crucial funding is to the success of YMHAC and urged service providers to engage in a conversation about the council’s sustainability. This discussion helped to formulate an action plan for the year to come and helped members feel supported and seen by their community leaders.

And then cake was served. But it wasn’t just any cake. It was an Ellen Degeneres-themed cake, as one dream of YMHAC is to one day spread the message that youth with lived experience can make valuable changes at system levels on her show!

Overall, the meeting left members and guests with full stomachs and full minds – with hope for the future of YMHAC and excitement for what’s to come.