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How to improve youth services? (Hint: Involve young people!)

Facebook banner for the National Youth Advisory Committe

by Olivia Heffernan and Tyson Herzog, peer support facilitators for the CAMH National Youth Advisory Committee

We recently introduced the National Youth Advisory Committee (NYAC) and are still busy getting the word out. So far, we’ve got about 80 members, and we’ve had three rounds of teleconference meetings.

The idea behind the National Youth Advisory Committee is to give young people a voice when it comes to mental health. We’re interested in improved services for young people – services that reflect our experiences and perspectives.

  • We provide feedback on research projects

Several research teams and organizations have come to us, asking us for youth input. Some include the Ontario Child Health Study 2014 (from McMaster University), YouthCan 2020 (a project funded by the Transformational Research in Adolescent Mental Health (TRAM)), and a development team for a mental health mobile app out of the University of Alberta – to name a few.

  • We’re also working on our own nation-wide project!

The youth in the committee decided that our first project will be a nation-wide anti-stigma campaign. Details are still to be hashed out in our meetings but stay tuned for big things to come from NYAC!

If you’re interested in joining (yes!!) you have a few options, depending on how much time you have, and what you’re interests are – we’re flexible!

  1. Project team member – full fledged member, providing feedback, and helping with the nation-wide project (and participating in monthly web conference)
  2. Support team member – providing feedback via online surveys, and join into project activities if/when you want
  3. Auxiliary member – get on the mailing list and jump in when you want

Not only will you get to impact social change, if you’re interested there will be opportunities to attend conferences, workshop, focus groups, and other events.

The ideal vision for NYAC was to make it so huge that every youth in Canada would know about it and participate in some way, even if only on a casual basis.

We spent a lot of time talking about what we wanted this group to look like and a few things were clear. Firstly, we knew that we wanted the NYAC to encapsulate all things “youth.” By brainstorming together we came up with a list of ‘youth qualities’ to use as guidelines as we built the framework and norms of the committee.

  • Enthusiasm
  • Creativity
  • ‘Telling it like it is’
  • Being inclusive
  • Social – connect youth with similar interests
  • Flexibility for involvement
  • Embracing the quirks that we have
  • Humour
  • Idealism

We also agreed that NYAC must emphasize the values of honesty, transparency, and flexibility – in its members, structure, and organization.

If you’re a young person, or know a young person who may be interested in getting involved feel free to contact Olivia Heffernan at olivia.heffernan@camh.ca – and please visit our brand new NYAC Facebook page.

Help us get the word out, and we’re always looking for new ideas and partners, so get in touch! We would love to have you involved!

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