Key Conversations

Youth and Adults Unite to Address Youth Mental Health, Addictions, and Substance Use Care in the Community

Youth Ottawa and the Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee recently partnered alongside multiple community organizations to learn more about Youth Mental health. United Way East Ontario, Ottawa Public Health, CHEO’s YouthNet/RéseauAdo, Ottawa Youth and Child Initiative, and Project Step all came together with youth voices from the city of Ottawa at the Rideau Community Hub, for a conversation focused on Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Health.

Why Mental Health Matters

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health expresses the need for these collaborative efforts. According to CIHC research  mental health disorders affect 20% of children and youth in Canada. Notably, statistics from 2020 demonstrated that one in four hospitalizations among youth aged 5-24 were linked to mental health conditions.

Research affirms that Youth Mental Health needs attention in our city. Key findings from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey 2021 by Ottawa Public Health demonstrate that 2 in 5 Ottawa students in grades 7-12 reported poor or fair mental health (44%). As well as some wanting to talk to someone but not knowing where to turn (42%). The shared commitment to enhance mental health and substance use health services resonates with these facts and remains a top priority for youth and key stakeholders in Ottawa.

It Takes Community

It began with presentations by adult and youth community leaders, each of whom brought unique experiences and insights to the conversation.

Daniel Bersyniow, a member of OYEC and a Health Science student at the University of Ottawa, elaborated on the importance of embracing creativity and thinking outside the box to empower sustainable solutions. Harpreet Grewal, representing Ottawa Public Health, shared invaluable data from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS). Additionally, Iman Shamraiz, a psychology student at the University Ottawa and youth representative of YouthNet’s Youth Advisory Committee, provided insights into common adult perceptions regarding youth mental health.

Daniel Bersyniow
Harpreet Grewal
Iman Shamraiz

Smaller group discussions guided by thought-provoking questions took place throughout the evening. All groups focused on gaining a collective understanding through shared knowledge and expressed opinions. The discussion topics included, exploring the definition of wellness,  getting to know support and resources, terminology, envisioned outcomes, and incorporating personal or professional experiences. Each group recorded their answers, and later, all attendees reconvened in open discussion to share their group’s takeaways.

Emerging Conversations

1. The de-stigmatization of Mental Health. 

2.The identification of gaps in mental health and substance use services in Ottawa.

3. Addressing wait-times and opportunities for youth- to- adult healthcare transitions.

4. Implementing collaborative structures within organizations that support inter-provider  communication.

5. Addressing the challenges faced by youth residing in remote areas.

6. Examining mental health equity.

7. The importance of youth and family engagement.

8. Improved workplace training.

9. Learning about mental health resources available to youth in Ottawa.

10. Exploring how patient needs can be addressed by first contact to counter critical mental health emergencies. 

Photos by Wendley Pierre- Hotshoe Productions

Moving Forward: Transforming Words into Actions

Partners were able to acknowledge the commendable efforts of numerous Ottawa youth and organizations dedicated to reshaping the landscape of Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Health. A comprehensive summary report will be prepared and shared with all participants and partner organizations. The insights gained from this event will play an important  role in guiding actionable steps toward improving the mental health and substance use well-being of Ottawa’s youth.

This continuous dialogue underlines the unwavering dedication of the community to empower Ottawa’s youth and lay the foundation for a brighter and healthier future for the next generation.

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