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Youth Mental Health and Addictions Council 2018
LHSC piloted the Transition Age Project (TAP) as a unique initiative with the aim to improve mental health and addictions services for transition age youth. The term “transition age youth” refers to the young people, also called Emerging Adults (EAs), who are aging out of child and adolescent services and needing to transition into adult services - one of the many big transitions faced by these youth. As part of TAP and in collaboration with mindyourmind, a council of young people with lived experience was formed to provide a platform for authentic youth engagement and involvement in the community. This council, who decided to call themselves YMHAC (Youth Mental Health and Addictions Council), consists of 10-12 members who are between the ages of 16 and 25.
Because this is an ongoing group, some youth who were once on council have moved on to focus on other things (e.g. work, school, etc.), and other youth have joined at various times since YMHAC started. Current council members are: Lily, Scarlett, Elora, Jesse, Alex, Nathan, Alec, Luke, Kat, Rachel S., and Jacquon. Past council members who also deserve recognition: Dillon, Christel, Takat, Rachel T., and Casey. mindyourmind staff and Jill Lynch of LHSC (MSW, RSW, and Project Facilitator for TAP) are the adult allies who help to support, co-facilitate, and make connections for the council.
YMHAC actively engages and influences directions around initiatives and projects that affect young people experiencing mental health and/or addictions issues. They do so by having biweekly meetings, often inviting community partners who are seeking youth input, to discuss the issues they wish to tackle and actively do so. Various members also sit on other related committees in the community to represent YMHAC and bring back information to the council to seek further input. The work that YMHAC members are involved in typically doesn’t end after each biweekly meeting, but often takes place outside of meetings too. Broadly, YMHAC members contribute their expertise, time and energy as advocates and advisors in the ongoing work of bringing about youth-informed and youth-centered practices across services and issues in our community. Here are just a few tangible examples:
- Connected with youth councils across the world for advice and guidance on solidifying a similar council, including those supported by Orygen in Australia, Jigsaw in Ireland, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada
- Reviewed and advised on clinical intake forms for a local walk-in mental health clinic for young people to make it more youth-friendly
- Reviewed documents from the London Family Court Clinic about online violence and about resiliency to help make the resources more youth-friendly
- Brainstormed and provided suggestions for an e-learning module about stigma in health care for youth and health professionals
- Responded to a request for feedback from the Southwest LHIN on experiences in the Emergency Department for patients with mental health concerns
- Participated in focus groups about London’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy
- Provided feedback for youth involvement and engagement in the Youth Wellness Hub initiative for London
- Collaborated on the content and design of a transition protocol for youth in London and area who are receiving mental health services in the youth system and need to transition into adult services due to their age
- Created a video for London’s Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario proposal to promote the need for London to have a funded hub
Youth with lived experience give a perspective and voice that can inform and challenge how hospital and community services, and society more broadly, respond to their needs as well as co-create innovations that reflect youth-friendly practices at all levels of care.
Check back for the video and photos from the working group.