Published on August 12th, 2017 | from CAMH

International Youth Day, and its Intersection with Mental Health

By Tallan Byram, U of T Psychology Student and CAMH BTCN Co-Educator

According to the United Nations, International Youth Day 2017 is a day dedicated to “celebrating young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace”. Mental health exists very much along these intersections. Inclusion is important for people with lived experience and their families, and modern psychiatric care now emphasizes interdisciplinary care that includes community care models. Unlike in the past, mental health centres now favour community and societal integration over seclusion. Social justice plays a larger role in both clinical and community settings, and patient rights, access to care, and accessible social determinants like housing and employment are essential.

Young people are innately sensitive to issues of intersectionality, psychosocial determinants of health, and the importance of listening in the act of offering care. Young people are the clinicians and clients of tomorrow, and making sure they have access to cutting edge, up-to-date, and relevant information regarding mental health is critical.

Youth are in a position to affect these systems in the future – but it has to start somewhere.

Getting youth involved in the conversation about mental health helps to ensure that care will get better, that stigma will reduce, and that dialogues will develop around important issues such as accessibility for rural and remote communities to psychiatric care, and the diversity of approaches necessary when working with clients and families from a plurality of backgrounds.

Mental illness is prevalent among youth: many having their onset in the late teens and early twenties. Sadly, this contributes to the suicide rate among young people as well, with tragic – and largely preventable – consequences. Intervening early is important, and the more that young people are able to recognize the signs and symptoms of the onset of common mental illnesses in themselves and their peers, the better they will be at nipping problems in the bud, and improving outcomes for those affected.

Initiatives which engage and educate youth in important aspects of psychology and mental health are doing a world of good. Initiatives like CAMH’s Beyond the Cuckoo’s Nest youth education program, which aims to educate youth on mental health, and introduces them to a clinical setting like CAMH’s Queen Street site.

As more young people come forward to share their stories of triumph and struggles with their peers, stigma will become less of a barrier in preventing young people from accessing the care they need. And the conversation begins with you: start a discussion about mental health with your friends in person or on social media; volunteer with organizations that work with people with lived experience and listen to their perspectives; take a course in psychology. The more young people engage with their own mental health, the more we can all contribute to a peaceful, caring, and compassionate world.

Happy International Youth Day!

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