My name is Lily and I am one of the Research Assistants at MINDS. Through this role, I am the EDI evaluator of the various prototypes leading up to MINDS 2.0, working committee member of Youth-Centered Adult Allyship and adult liaison of the Youth Mental Health and Addictions Council, also known as YMHAC.
YMHAC began in 2016 under the Transition Age Project (TAP), and its mission was to promote youth-centered practice in youth mental health care through advising and guiding hospital programs, initiatives and community agencies/organizations through authentic leadership, influence and decision making. I along with Alec Cook were the original founding members of YMHAC, and when TAP concluded 3 years later in 2019, MINDS took stewardship we were approached to be the council’s new facilitators, making YMHAC a fully youth-led prototype. With the help of the MINDS lab, YMHAC’s goal is to promote youth voice and participation, and to develop and research system-level change that leads to the development of Meaning and Purpose, Resiliency, and Quality Relationships for transitional-age youth (TAY). In my role as an adult liaison, I work with Alec to organize meeting agendas, provide updates from the MINDS lab and the council to one another regarding current and upcoming projects, encourage our council members to take the lead in making decisions, connect with others in the London-Middlesex community and across Canada who are doing similar advocacy work, and much more.
Over the past year, MINDS wanted to understand the experiences of transition-age youth who are members of a youth council and disseminated a survey centered largely on examining the experiences within the local mental healthcare system, their experiences as a member of YMHAC, and areas for future growth of the council. In addition to this manuscript in progress, Alec and I have been able to accomplish more than we expected with our council members since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic: from our own networks and promotional material we were able to find approximately 12 youth who were interested in the mission of YMHAC, organized virtual meetings, had consistent attendance from members who maintained momentum through zoom, invited various guests who were interested in the work of YMHAC, and most importantly, guided our members through the completion of their guidebook project.
The guidebook is meant to provide mental health literacy to youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who want to support their peers experiencing mental health or addictions issues. We as the co-facilitators and members emphasize to readers that it is not a self-help book for youth to diagnose themselves or their peers, but it is a resource to help in starting conversations around these challenges. With the appropriate references, the members wrote the guidebook to be understood and accessible to transition-age youth. It covers topics like basic information about mental health, how to have conversations with friends around mental health and substance use, self-care, coping strategies, and more. Through Ardith Publishing, we hope to have physical and digital copies of the guidebook ready for sale, for free through selective distribution, and for our attendance at the IAYMH Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark!
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy exploring the new MINDS website!