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Youth Mental Health Promotion in Canada: Highlights from a recent review available now in a report, @ a glance, and webinar

Submitted by Monica Nunes, CAMH Resource Centre

Youth mental health is making headlines like never before in Ontario. Reports on youth bullying, violence, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse splash our newspapers, news websites and social media feeds on a daily basis. These news reports reflect a reality that population health data, such as that from CAMH's 2011 Ontario Student Drug and Health Survey (OSDUHS), unequivocally conveys: youth in Ontario are dealing with significant mental health, drug and alcohol concerns.

Those working in public health and health promotion look to upstream paths to alleviate present health concerns and to prevent future problems. In these considerations, health promotion and prevention practitioners strive to find best practices and evidence of interventions that are likely to be successful. In the case of youth mental health promotion and mental illness prevention interventions, this evidence base is not so easily identifiable as youth mental health promotion is still a relatively new field of practice.

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In light of this gap in knowledge, the CAMH Resource Centre recently completed a scoping review to identify the range and extent of youth mental health promotion and mental illness prevention programming in Canada. The intended outcome for this review was to identify common elements across successful programs and recommend areas for further action and research.

To identify mental health promotion and mental illness prevention programs for this review, we searched for programs in five academic databases, conducted an Internet search for grey literature or research that has not been published, and spoke with youth mental health experts. This scoping review also applied a youth engagement lens and only programs demonstrating a meaningful level of youth engagement were included in the review.

The report concludes that the interventions identified in this review demonstrate some common programmatic elements and have the potential to promote youth mental health. However, more research will help to determine if these programs could work with different subgroups of youth. Consequently, we also make 16 recommendations for future research and action in the area of youth mental health promotion programming that incorporates feedback from four discussion groups with diverse youth.

Program planners, decision-makers and service providers can use this research to inform their programs and services and also guide future research and action on youth mental health promotion.

To share these findings, the CAMH Resource Centre will be hosting a webinar on December 5 from 10 – 11:30 am. We are inviting two exciting partners as guest speakers to present on their programs included in this review. First, Faron Gogo, Youth Engagement/Initiatives Coordinator with Youth Net Ottawa will provide commentary on the findings of the report from the perspective of their youth engagement work. Also, Dr. Suzanne Zwarych of the comprehensive school-based initiative the Fourth R, a program housed within the CAMH Centre for Prevention Science, will speak to the objectives and outcomes of this program.

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The full report is available in English.

@ A Glance brief summaries of the full report are also available in both English and French.

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