Consensus Conference Delegates Urge Bold Action to Improve Mental Health of Emerging Adults

Speakers at the Consensus Conference on the Mental Health of Emerging Adults. November 2-4, 2015.

A variety of voices gathered and discussed the challenges associated with emerging adulthood, especially for those living with mental health problems and Illnesses, and how the current system is failing them. After hearing poignant stories from the Emerging Adult Innovators Panel, the Mental Health Commission of Canada's (MHCC) Consensus Conference on the Mental Health of Emerging Adults: Making Transitions a Priority in Canada, held from November 2-4 in Ottawa, concluded with broad agreement from nearly 200 delegates that bold action is needed to improve mental health outcomes among emerging adults.

Working in a modified consensus format which includes opportunities for contributions from all delegates, including youth and general audience participants, this conference brought together a diverse range of stakeholders. Emerging adults, families, service providers and managers from mental health, healthcare, education, justice and social services, as well as policy makers from a number of provinces and territories all gathered for intense deliberations. The conference Twitter feed was also very active, enabling those who were unable to attend in person to participate in the dialogue. See a Storify record of the Twitter conversation here.

“In order to give today’s young people the best chance, we need to build a bridge – a bridge supported by an integrated, accessible and responsive system,” said Louise Bradley, MHCC President and CEO in her opening remarks.

Emerging adulthood is when mental health problems or illnesses most often emerge, at a stage of life fraught with doubt, struggle, alienation, and uncertainty. It is also when they face the most barriers in accessing services and supports.

After deliberating well into the early hours of the morning on the conference’s last day, the panel, delegates, and 16-person jury presented draft guiding principles and an initial set of recommendations for improving mental health outcomes for emerging adults.

The draft principles include:

  • All emerging adults across Canada have equal access to high-quality, publicly funded mental health care.
  • The culture of the system is one of hope, collaboration and integration.
  • Emerging adults are engaged as experts.
  • Indigenous knowledge, systems and practices are fully integrated where they are needed.
  • Services are client-driven and cover the full range of a person’s needs.
  • The mental health care system is flexible.
  • Services are locally, culturally and personally relevant.
  • Emerging adults with mental health needs have access to supportive peers and professionals they can relate to.
  • Services respect the individual and create a sense of community and belonging.
  • Services are highly responsive to the needs of all vulnerable people.

In addition, the panel and conference delegates urged amendments to the principles to acknowledge current racial and other inequity experienced by emerging adults.

“We are facing a number of challenges in meeting the needs of emerging adults, but should not look at these as insurmountable problems, but a as opportunities for innovative solutions,” states Ms. Bradley.

Facilitated through the MHCC’s Knowledge Exchange Centre, the conference jury, emerging adults panel, and conference delegates will continue to work together over the coming months to capture and finalize the conference recommendations.