In 2007 Children’s Mental Health Ontario and the Centre of Excellence partnered together because there was a need for youth voice in the mental health system. Through the New Mentality’s 10 years of existence, it has effectively grown from a small pilot project to an established thought leader practicing in youth engagement in mental health that has had a province-wide impact.
Since the beginning, the New Mentality has aimed to give opportunities to youth to make a difference in ways that were meaningful to them. In order to keep youth mental health on the political agenda and to decrease public stigma, youth need to speak publicly about the issues they were facing. Youth also need to have input on how to make counselling and other mental health treatments more accessible, youth-friendly and, ultimately, more effective.
In November 2016, the Youth Action Committee released its groundbreaking youth-led zine, Waiting for Change. It is collection of personal stories and youth-led policy recommendations to address the issue of wait times in the child and youth mental health system. The Zine outlines four recommendations by Ontario youth: two ways to shorten wait times and two ideas for helping youth manage while they wait for services. Both the former Minister of Children and Youth Services, Micheal Coteau and the former Provincial Advocate Irwin Elman have publicly supported the recommendations outlined by youth in the Zine.
In 2015, The New Mentality’s Youth Action Committee hosted a provincial youth summit, Waiting for Change, in partnership with CAMH’s National Youth Action Committee. The summit engaged youth in the creation of specific policy recommendations for government and children and youth mental health service providers about how to improve wait times for mental health services and how to support, children, youth, and families when they are unable to access the treatment they need.
In 2014, The New Mentality received a social innovation grant from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation to scale our youth engagement work. As a result, we developed our theory of change, grew our network of groups, and sharpened our focus on youth-driven policy work.
The New Mentality partnered with Children’s Mental Health Ontario to create the first youth-led policy paper; entitled Building a Better School Environment for Children and Youth with Mental Health and Addiction Issues
. This report outlines five youth-led recommendations around improving support for students experiencing mental health and addiction issues. The report discusses the need for improved communication between staff and educators, a greater level of mental health education, and increased resources to ensure more young people seek help, such as designated safe spaces. YAC members presented the paper at many different conferences and workshops including to all of the mental health leads in schools in Ontario. For more information on this project click here
In 2011, The New Mentality partnered with the Centre of Excellence to create a youth engagement training program, The Art of Youth Engagement, which gives mental health agencies in Ontario free training on how to provide genuine and meaningful youth engagement opportunities to youth.
In 2011, The New Mentality developed five Youth Engagement Accreditation Standards for the Canadian Centre of Accreditation that now serves all Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) members.
In 2010, our annual youth engagement summer training retreat was rebranded as Disable the Label. Youth from the New Mentality group at Central Toronto Youth Services coined the slogan Disable The Label!
In 2009, published a comprehensive program evaluation conducted by professional and youth researchers at the Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, Brock University and The New Mentality showing the impact of the engagement opportunities on youth and on the agencies. The evaluation specifically focused on youth-adult partnerships in community mental health promotion and can be found here.
In 2007, The New Mentality published a practitioner’s guidebook, Ready Set engage a first of its kind report for building and sustaining adult/youth partnership keys aspects of mental health agencies. This guidebook has been used in North America and internationally to further the practice of youth engagement on a global scale.
The New Mentality has provided youth engagement training to youth leaders and adult allies from across the province since 2007. In 2010, our training was branded as Disable the Label. We have grown from hosting 14 youth and adult allies at the first training to over 100 in 2016! Our New Mentality groups have also seen considerable growth: in 10 years we have grown from 7 to 17 groups. Each group works towards reducing stigma and increasing knowledge of mental illness in their communities.