From October 8 to 10th, I had the extremely humbling and exciting opportunity to represent the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health (YCRH) at the International Association of Youth Mental Health conference in Montreal, Quebec. This opportunity would not have been possible without the generous support of the Graham Boeckh and two other Foundations.
I started off my conference journey by attending the pre-conference workshop around using social media to engage youth and the opening reception. I spent hours getting to know the folks in the workshop, learning about best practices and the process of rapid prototyping as problem solving. My greatest take away from the session however, was around language and words from various countries and the way they resonate with different people. The day concluded with the opening reception where I had the chance to meet with many people from various countries such as Australia, Scotland, and the USA and I met the Norfolk and Suffolk youth advisory council for the first time, who in the end became my adopted family.
I spent day two in and out of so many concurrent sessions hearing the research findings from all across the world, and listening to the keynote presentations. I checked out the poster presentations and took some time to vote on what poster I thought was the best. The keynote around youth-adult research partnerships was beneficial for me since it directly translated into a project I’m leading with the YCRH right now. While I learned so many things and I could write paragraph upon paragraph sharing the knowledge I gained, the inspiration that I gained from spending every free moment with the Norfolk and Suffolk group needs to be shared. From listening to the model they have set up in England and the creative process they undertook to get them to where they are was undeniably one of my greatest takeaways not just from the day but the entire conference. The way that they have created their youth-adult partnerships, and the tools they used to engage youth are innovative and I was so excited to find ways to bring the same model back into the YCRH.
On our final day all together I attended the concurrent sessions, learned about the inspiring Headspace Australia, and then filed into the auditorium with the rest of the delegates to listen to the final remarks form the co-chairs, organizers and the youth panel. Listening to everyone was great, but to watch the youth up on stage representing the feelings that they had collected from all youth about the conference and then giving recommendations for the coming years was beyond motivational and empowering. It takes a lot on both ends for that to happen. It says a lot about the organizers that they were interested in hearing what the youth feedback was, to the point they gave them space on the stage and then it took a lot for those young people to get up and honestly hold everyone accountable. It allowed us to end on a note of inspiration and excitement for the next conference in two years and reminded us all that we were here for youth.
Overall, the entire conference was amazing. I still haven’t fully grasped all of the new information that I learned or new friendships that I have made and I honestly think it will take a few more weeks of note reading and reflecting to really let it sink in. I could not have asked for a better experience, and I would never have imagined meeting a group of people that I will forever be connected to in so many ways.
Alyssa Frampton is a co-chair of the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health. She studies Public Relations at Humber College in Toronto.