Our youth advisory council (Youth council) builds on the capacity of young people to improve child and youth mental health across Ontario by speaking to, and acting on, issues that impact or are important to youth. The Youth council reflects our commitment to meaningful youth engagement; we rely on young people's perspectives as well as integral input, expertise and guidance to ensure our policies, approaches, initiatives and other work are responsive to the evolving needs of young people.

Member responsibilities

The purpose of the Youth council includes:

  • advising on our strategic directions and activities
  • empowering youth representatives to lead and inform key decisions in the development, implementation and evaluation of our initiatives
  • building meaningful, professional relationships between council members
  • augmenting the capacity of the Centre's youth engagement team by acting as a mechanism for project support, when needed
  • ensuring alignment with our strategic advisory council through consistent youth liaison representing both councils

Meet the Youth council

The Youth council consists of about a dozen diverse youth from across the province.

Portrait of Abby Lopez

Abby Lopez

Abby Lopez is studying social work, with a minor in children and youth studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford.Currently working as a youth advocate for Woodview: Mental Health and Autism Services, Abby is interested in making a career in youth mental health.She became interested in the mental health sector when she was diagnosed with a mental illness at age 14. She hopes her own experience battling through the ups and downs of the mental health system will help her help others. In her spare time, Abby loves to paint and read.

Portrait of Amanda McGraw

Amanda McGraw

Amanda McGraw is finishing school in Windsor while working as a freelance youth engagement facilitator and consultant in Ontario. She has worn many hats within the mental health sector in Ontario: she’s currently a member of Children Mental Health Ontario’s Youth Action Committee and has been involved in various capacities with The New Mentality and the Centre since 2011. Amanda is extremely passionate about meaningful youth engagement, intersectionality and accountability. She enjoys hanging out with her cat and pinning recipes to her Pinterest board.

Portrait of  Anvita Desai

Anvita Desai

Anvita Desai is studying knowledge integration and cognitive science at the University of Waterloo. She is passionate about working in the mental health sector and has been a Centre volunteer since she was 15! After graduating, Avita plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work and hopes to continue to dedicate her time and efforts to initiatives that value youth engagement, health equity, harm reduction and accessibility. In her free time, Anvita enjoys reading, swimming and listening to true crime podcasts.

Portrait of Assia Messaoudi

Assia Messaoudi

Assia Messaoudi is currently completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto and plans to pursue a Master of Social Work, with a focus on providing accessible mental health and addictions services to marginalized and underrepresented communities. As a young Algerian-Canadian woman, Assia is passionate about authentic intersectionality, accessibility and meaningful youth engagement. She works with the Centre in multiple advising capacities and is also part of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s PSSPLived Experience and Family Advisory Panel. Additionally, Assia works as a youth co-researcher with Taylor Newberry Consulting on the YWHO Integrated Youth Service sites project. She enjoys singing karaoke and cooking for her friends.

Portrait of Brett Recollet

 Brett Recollet

Brett Recollet is currently studying psychology at Carleton University, while working full time as a healthy living coordinator at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health. As a First Nation man from the Whitefish River First Nation community, Brett has a strong understanding of what mental health looks like for Indigenous populations. He has been working with the Centre for four years, beginning originally as a youth facilitator. For fun, Brett enjoys playing volleyball, swimming, going to the movies and spending time with his family and friends.

Portrait of Gagandeep Virdi

Gagandeep Virdi

Gagandeep Virdi is currently pursuing her master’s degree in public health at Brock University. Highly motivated and passionate about youth engagement and health, Gagandeep became interested in the mental health sector early in university, while taking mental health courses. She began working at the Lynwood Charlton Centre and Thrive Child and Youth Trauma Centre to get hands-on experience and is certified in mental health first aid. Gagan is also accomplished in tae kwon do: she was on Team Canada in 2010.

Portrait of Leif Harris

 Leif Harris

Leif Harris is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in psychology. It’s a point of pride for Leif, who has experienced mental health challenges from a young age, and who was homeless for two years. Now with a place of his own, Leif is an avid advocate for mental health in Ottawa. He has spoken and performed spoken word at many events, including smoking cessation conferences and political summits around homelessness.

Portrait of Mahalia Dixon

Mahalia Dixon

Mahalia Dixon is a young person from Toronto who is passionate about mental health, harm reduction and youth engagement. She has been involved with mental health systems as a client, volunteer and staff member. Mahalia is also a youth advisor for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. She is always eager to provide holistic support to young people through a non-judgmental, inclusive and empowering practice. In her free time, Mahalia loves to read, write and spend time with friends.

Portrait of Malika Osman

Malika Osman

Malika Osman recently graduated from the University of Ottawa with an honours BA in environment and women’s studies. She is a passionate advocate and has held many roles with grassroots organizations with a goal to promote youth engagement and mental health awareness, as well as diversity and inclusion for all.

Portrait of Nicholas Jakubiak

Nicholas Jakubiak

Nick Jakubiak has been involved with social work for more than three years and plans to obtain a Bachelor of Social Work. He found this passion as a client at Skylark, which opened the door to many volunteer and work opportunities in mental health and harm reduction communities, including this one at the Centre. In his free time, Nick enjoys listening to rap music and is currently learning German.

Portrait of Niko Lapensée

Niko Lapensée

Niko Lapensée is a trans Indigenous youth from Ottawa. He spends most of his free time volunteering at pride events and youth centres, where he is always meeting new individuals with different backgrounds and life experiences. In the summer he works for a summer camp as a leadership counsellor. Niko has also participated in Making the Shift, a youth homelessness social innovation lab that seeks to prevent youth homelessness and stabilize housing, and dreams of being a youth worker.

Portrait of Rafael Lim Daunt

Rafael Lim Daunt

Rafael Lim Daunt is a Toronto-based community worker, artist and workshop facilitator focused on community wellness and collaboration, promoting resource sharing and harm reduction. Through his own lived experience with navigating the mental health system as a youth, he started working with organizations and programs with goals aimed at resilience building for youth.

Portait of Samar El Faki

Samar El Faki

Samar El Faki is currently completing an undergraduate degree in childhood and youth studies at Carleton University. She isalso a passionate mental health activist. That’s why Samar is excited to participate on the youth advisory council to help create a better mental health system for children and youth in Ontario. Samar is bilingual: she speaks English and Arabic. In her spare time, she enjoys singing.