The former Child and Youth Advisory Committee worked to raise the profile of infant, child and youth mental health issues to help ensure the mental well-being of all young Canadians. Recommending an approach of identifying at-risk youth and intervening as early as possible, the Committee aimed to improve the lives of young people and foster their development into healthy, productive adults.
Developing a strategy for youth mental health
Published in 2010, the Evergreen Framework provides a vision for transforming Canada’s child and youth mental health system. It identifies more than 100 strategic directions across four categories—promotion, prevention, intervention and ongoing care, and research and evaluation—ideas that governments and service providers can use to develop child and youth mental health initiatives. It is also intended for use by youth and their parents to help inform their decision making.
Evaluating school-based mental health services
To determine the state of mental health programs in Canada’s schools, the former Committee supported the School-Based Mental Health and Substance Abuse Project. Following a survey involving 177 Canadian school districts and a scan of school-based mental health service activity, the project found a number of unmet student mental health needs. These findings led to recommendations including increased investment in mental health education and more trained mental health professionals in Canadian schools.
Moving the mental health system forward
Gaining a better understanding of gaps and best practices in the mental health system will lead to better services and improved outcomes for people living with mental illness. The Youth Transitioning to Adult Mental Health Services Project was launched to guide policy and practice that will improve how youth make the shift to adult mental health programs as they grow older. A plan is also being developed to address the specific mental health needs of Inuit and Métis youth.
Engaging youth in system improvement
Research indicates that it can take up to 15 years for new knowledge to be put into practice. To study the effectiveness of strategies taken to reduce this gap—and to establish the foundation for an ongoing knowledge mobilization strategy in child and youth mental health—the former Committee launched a project looking at how young people perceive mental health.
This project involved a review of which health-oriented websites are popular with youth and how social media are used in health promotion. Interviews and surveys were also conducted to investigate the language youth use when talking about mental health, who they turn to for support, and their experiences with social media.
Improving access to mental health information online
Navigating the online environment to find mental health can be a daunting task for anyone. Research tells us that over 80% of internet users have looked online for health-related information, but only 21% related to depression, anxiety, stress or mental health problems of illnesses. It can be especially challenging for children and youth. Three research projects commissioned by the MHCC were summarized in A Foundation for Online Knowledge Mobilization in Child and Youth Mental Health. The projects sought to research what children and youth want to know about mental health problems or illnesses and how do they search for this information online. The projects were undertaken with input from youth of diverse ages and backgrounds throughout Canada. The synthesis report highlights a number of recommendations with opportunities for further action to reduce stigma and improve access to mental health information online.