Youth engagement is about empowering young people as valuable partners in child and youth mental health to address and make decisions that affect them personally or that they believe to be important. Engaging young people has been a priority for us from the beginning. Over the years, we have co-developed dozens of resources with young people. They're also integrated as important partners on all our key projects and initiatives, through our youth advisory council.

Why youth engagement matters

Evidence shows that when youth have a voice and an active role in treatment planning and service delivery, they experience better outcomes and greater satisfaction with care, and services are more cost-effective. A central goal of youth engagement is positive youth development. Through engagement, young people experience positive changes, enhance their ability to think critically and develop better teamwork and leadership skills.

What do we mean by “system-level engagement”? 

Ontario's child and youth mental health care system is made up of the many providers and organizations from different sectors, all delivering mental health services to children and youth. The system includes the networks and care pathways that connect them. It also includes the governments and other institutions that provide resources.

A care pathway helps guide children, youth and families to, through and out of care. It ensures that families get the right service at the right time and in the right way to best meet their child's or youth's mental health needs. In a high-quality mental health system, care pathways are accessible, efficient and effective. They reflect coordination between multiple providers and create better continuity of care.

Youth engagement at the system level is focused on improvements that affect these networks, pathways and resources, in addition to improvements within individual organizations.

youth engagement quality standard sealSetting the standard for youth engagement

Pursuing excellence demands that we define it. In 2018 we began developing a provincial quality standard for youth engagement in partnership with young people, families, clinicians and researchers from all over Ontario. Now that we have a draft standard, we're developing coaching and implementation resources to support organizations who want to put the standard into action.


What is a quality standard? 

A quality standard consists of several quality statements, or principles, that describe what the evidence says “high quality” looks like. It includes best practices and indicators to show progress and the impact of implementing those practices. Quality standards are a complement to accreditation standards and clinical practice guidelines from professional bodies.

Why do we need a quality standard on youth engagement? 

Over the past few years, more and more agencies have been working on youth engagement, but there isn't a shared understanding or a consistent set of practices to reflect what this looks like, especially at the system level. A quality standard is essential to a system that is accountable and constantly improving. It's also crucial to ensuring that Ontario children, youth and families receive high-quality mental health services wherever they are within the province.

Supporting provincial youth engagement efforts

With the energy and expertise of our in-house youth advisors and other staff, we have engaged hundreds of young people across the province. We've also worked with many organizations to build their capacity to practice meaningful youth engagement at the individual, organizational and system levels.

Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario Integrated Youth Services

Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario (YWHO) Integrated Youth Services is a network of one-stop shops where young people ages 12 to 25 can access the mental health and addictions services they need, when they need it. Youth engagement is an essential part of YWHO's co-developed and youth-driven model. This work is led by the Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth and Family Health and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)'s Provincial System Support Program (PSSP). We support meaningful youth engagement at their 10 local hub sites around Ontario, as well as at the provincial level.

The New Mentality

The New Mentality is a provincial network of youth and allies working to amplify youth voice to influence change within the mental health system. We helped establish the New Mentality in 2007 and have worked frequently with the network since then to promote and enhance youth engagement across the province.

Looking to start engaging youth or improve engagement?

Check out the quality standard for youth engagement and the resources that go along with it.

Get in touch with our engagement and standards team.

Walking the talk: A toolkit for engaging youth in mental health 
Our online youth engagement toolkit will give you a better understanding of how youth engagement can directly benefit youth, service areas and communities in Ontario's child and youth mental health sector. We've designed it to highlight the benefits, help you implement youth engagement initiatives in your agency and showcase the many youth engagement success stories from across the province.


Supporting youth: Good2Talk

Good2Talk is a free, confidential helpline for post-secondary students in Ontario. Callers can access anonymous professional counselling, as well as information and referrals for mental health and addictions services.

The Centre is one of four organizations behind Good2Talk, which is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. We lead the evaluation component and develop training resources for Good2Talk staff.