Public invited to October 18 anniversary of “by youth, for youth” CHEO program
October 16, 2014, Ottawa – This week marks 20 years of success for a life-changing program at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). Youth Net/Réseau Ado was born in 1994 when two leaders in youth mental health in Canada, Dr. Ian Manion and Dr. Simon Davidson, vowed to help young people break the silence surrounding depression and mental illness.
They had surveyed 900 youth across Canada for the Canadian Psychiatric Association to profile youth during Mental Illness Awareness Week 1993. What they discovered was concerning. Many young people indicated having recurring concerns about their mental health (32% overall and 50% by grade 12), 19% of youth reporting having had suicidal thoughts (30% of 17-18 year olds), with many never talking to a single person about it. Youth Net was designed to break down those barriers. Twenty years later, it has helped hundreds of thousands of youth to connect and learn the skills for a healthier life.
“We are so proud to see how Youth Net has grown over the last 20 years and become a model for change,” says Alex Munter, President and CEO of CHEO. “There is no way to quantify the impact Youth Net/Réseau Ado has had on not only the greater Ottawa community, but on youth all over the country and the world.”
In its first year, Youth Net grew from 20 focus groups to 100, reaching out to over a thousand local youth. A bilingual by-youth, for-youth program was created that not only identified the needs of youth, but created bridges to getting help. This model has been adopted in satellite programs across Canada and elsewhere. In 2012, Youth Net was recognized as an “Innovative Leading Practice” by Accreditation Canada. Manion, Davidson, and the Youth Net team have trained facilitators all over the country and lead workshops about innovations in mental health promotion and meaningful youth engagement around the world.
"It is never just a job for any of us, it is so much more than that,” says Dr. Manion, now the Executive Director of the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health at CHEO. “It has changed how I approach everything that I do in my professional life”.
"While many of us have learned so much from the YouthNet/Reseau Ado paradigm shift, authentic youth engagement, while much more accepted, still has a way to go," says Dr. Davidson, who is Senior Advisor on Mental Health Policy and System Improvement to both CHEO and Partners for Mental Health.
Youth Net/Réseau Ado runs focus groups in schools, community centres, and youth gathering places, reaching over 5,000 young people a year in Eastern Ontario alone. Youth Net also offers Mental Health presentations, info booths, and a series of 10-week support programs that range from hands-on arts and yoga to specialized talks for guys or girls. As a for-youth-by-youth organization, Youth Net/Réseau Ado is informed by a Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) – another group that youth can get involved with.
On October 18, Youth Net/Réseau Ado will celebrate its 20th anniversary by hosting a wellness fair at Ottawa University’s Tabaret Hall from 10:30am to 4:30pm. There will be youth only workshops from 10:30am to 12:30pm, and workshops, booths, and activities for the general public from 12:30pm to 4:30pm. Information: www.youthnet.on.ca
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