Guest Blog: Youth Mental Health – A Vital Conversation

On March 14th, 75 community members came together in the Gibson Auditorium at Camosun College for a Vital Conversation about youth mental health in our region. With the support of a youth advisory committee convened to help plan this event, the Victoria Foundation, in partnership with Coast Capital Savings and the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, led a panel discussion addressing a range of topics including self-care, available supports and services, social media and technology, stigma, and systems navigation. Check back in mid-April for a report with more information about this Vital Conversation.

Do you know of someone in your life who has experienced, or is experiencing, challenges related to mental health? At the Youth Mental Health Vital Conversation, audience members participated in a polling system that projected their answers onto an online word-cloud. The response was unanimous: yes.

I joined the Youth Advisory Committee to host an in-depth conversation that supports youth mental wellness. My goal for the event was to help provide guidance to people seeking support navigating mental health resources. Throughout the planning process, decision making, panel discussion, and follow-up dialogue of the Vital Conversation, I felt my voice was heard and that the voices of those around me were too. The event was the culmination of a lot of meaningful work that I know will have a ripple effect.

What stood out to me most about the Youth Advisory Committee was the decision-making process. Instead of simply picking items from a pre-made list, I was given multiple opportunities to ask questions, provide input, and share ideas. The youth on the committee made every decision for the event from ideas we had gathered together. Whether deciding on questions to ask the panelists or choosing what type of food would be provided at the event, I always felt I was a valued committee member.

The panel discussion was more than I could have hoped for. The range of panel speakers (two youth with lived experience and three adults with lived experience/field expertise) were exactly as the panel had discussed. In addition, the list of questions provided to the moderator to ask the panelists sparked thoughtful audience participation.

Panelists (L to R) – Dr. Jennie Preuss, Wade Maybie, Chris Balmer, Zoe Newson, Taylor Mahovlich

From my perspective after engaging in conversation with the event attendees after the panel discussion, many attended the Vital Conversation seeking to understand the variety of mental health resources available or were attending because they themselves knew of/ were/are affected by challenges related to mental health. Leaving the event, I think many were made aware of the diverse situations people face and were able to find reassurance and solace in connecting. For example, a large area of concern was youth transitioning into adulthood. The panelists were excellent in describing local resources in detail. Afterwards, the dialogue continued as youth and community members bounced community support ideas off of each other.

These conversations are necessary. Educators, parents, and youth came up to me, thanking me for opening the discussion surrounding mental health, an often-stigmatized topic of conversation. The big takeaway for me from this Vital Conversation was to listen without judgement, and to answer questions fully instead of shrugging them off. This builds understanding and promotes self-care.

Youth Advisory Committee (L to R) – Shae-Linn Davies, Christine Camaso, Florence Wang, Lajah Warren, Markus Meyer. Not pictured: Maclaren Forrest, Koa Planedin, and Anna Considine.

I can say with confidence that participating in the Youth Mental Health Vital Conversation has been a highlight in my life. It has even led to my leadership in creating a Mental Health Initiative at school to promote mental wellness.

I learned about the Youth Mental Health Vital Conversation through my work as Youth Get It Intern with Coast Capital Savings and as a Vital Youth with the Victoria Foundation. I hope that others took away as much from this discussion as I did, and that the Vital Conversations series continues!

˜ Shae-Linn Davies, gr. 12


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