With more than two-thirds of adults living with a mental health problem reporting that symptoms first appeared in their youth, the Mental Health Commission of Canada believes it is important to ensure meaningful child and youth engagement is evident throughout the Commission’s work. The MHCC created the Youth Council in 2008 to listen to the needs, experiences, and advice of a group of young people who have lived experience with mental health problems or illnesses, either personally or through a family member or friend.

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About the Youth Council

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) recognizes that empowering and collaborating with youth is essential to improving our mental health care system, with as much as 70 per cent of young adults living with mental health problems or illnesses reporting that symptoms started in childhood.

In response to recommendations found in the Senate report Out of the Shadows at Last, the MHCC’s former Child and Youth Advisory Committee set out to provide the opportunity for meaningful child and youth engagement by creating the Youth Advisory Council. Since its inception in 2008, the Youth Council has provided opportunities for youth with personal experiences of mental health problems and illnesses to inform our work.

The Youth Council is made up of youth between the ages of 18 and 30 who have lived experience with mental health problems or illnesses, either personally or through a family member or friend. 

The Youth Council’s main goals are to:

  • advocate on behalf of young people with mental health problems
  • engage other local, provincial, and national youth mental health networks
  • participate in projects arising from MHCC initiatives
  • represent the youth voice at MHCC events
  • participate in public events to promote recovery and inspire other youth

The Youth Council aims to increase youth participation in decisions related to mental health service delivery and policy making and increase the impact of youth involvement in system change.

Members have been asked to participate in various MHCC projects in order to provide youth perspectives, including the MHCC’s anti-stigma research initiative, the homelessness and mental health project, the Mental Health Strategy for Canada and many former Advisory Committee projects.

In 2012, the Youth Council created a video about their encounters with mental health stigma. The video’s messaging, location scouting, and shooting were driven by Youth Council members.

In 2013, the Youth Council took on a knowledge exchange project to ‘translate’ Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada into a youth friendly document. The purpose was to ensure that this important document was accessible to all Canadians, with particular focus on youth and youth-focused organizations. The Mental Health Strategy for Canada: A Youth Perspective was proudly released in 2015. The Youth Council produced a webinar to take a deeper look at the contents of the document and the process involved in re-writing the Strategy. This webinar also features a special message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and premieres the Youth Council’s whiteboard animation video, created to discuss youth engagement in policy.

The Youth Council is involved in numerous projects. Currently, the Youth Council is co-developing an animated video with MHCC’s Recovery Team on what mental health recovery means to youth.

To find out more about the Youth Council -  youthcouncil@mentalhealthcommission.ca

Current Members

Amanee Elchehimi
Amanee Elchehimi

Chair

Amanee Elchehimi is from Surrey, British Columbia, where she is an active member of her local Muslim community, working on various youth and family-focused projects in the Lower Mainland and across Western Canada. Amanee currently works at Pacific Community Resources Society as the Manager of Vancouver Education Services, which includes the Pathways to Education program and alternative education programs. She previously worked as a youth outreach worker with vulnerable newcomer youth and is a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor for Adults who interact with Youth. Amanee has a Masters of Public Health degree from Simon Fraser University. She has a deep interest in refugee youth mental health, mental health in the Muslim community, and mental health promotion at the community level. 

Ally Campbell
Ally Campbell

Vice-Chair

Ally Campbell comes to the Youth Council through her love for writing, visual arts, and story-telling. She believes that every person's story is important and she sees that many youth struggle to fully express what they are feeling while on their journey with mental illness and recovery. Ally hopes that by sharing her story, she may encourage others to embrace their own stories and share them in unique ways.

Since her involvement with the YC in 2014, Ally has furthered her experience and education in the field by taking Peer Support Training, ASIST, Mental Health First Aid, and most recently, completing a Children’s Mental Health certificate through Georgian College. She currently works as an Autism Support Assistant and does other respite work to support individuals with exceptionalities.

Ally enjoys finding new ways to learn and grow in the mental health landscape; through music and art, training and education, and networking to create a broader more cohesive mental health community in Canada. An activist for equity and equality in marginalized groups, Ally has a special interest in LGBT+, (dis)ablility and rural communities. Ally was elected as Vice Chair in March 2017.

Emily Alexander
Emily Alexander

Emily Alexander comes to the Youth Council as a steadfast mental health advocate from the west coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. She is currently completing a Bachelor of Science (Honours) majoring in Psychology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Grenfell Campus.

A First Nations student, Emily is a voice for aboriginal youth and is passionate about improving access to mental health care services and increasing awareness about specific cultural needs. She is a strong proponent for suicide prevention and awareness and is certified in Applied Suicide Intervention Training (ASIST). Her involvement in the mental health care and policy community originates from personal experience with anxiety and depression, as well as the stories of others close to her. She values acceptance-based approaches to helping others, and is inspired by the depths of human connection.

Emily is an active member of the Jack.org national network of student leaders, the National Youth Advisory Committee for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Grenfell Campus’ Mental Health and Wellness Committee, Psychology Society, and Indigenous Student Caucus, as well as the student representative on the Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities at Grenfell Campus.  She has previously served as a member of the Premier’s Youth Advisory Committee NL and National Youth Advisory Committee for the RCMP.

Melynda Ehaloak
Melynda Ehaloak

Melynda is a beneficiary of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement who is proud of her Inuit heritage. She is an avid mental health advocate who is very passionate about making a positive impact on the mental health of Indigenous people, and people in the north. Melynda’s passion for mental health advocacy comes from her own experiences of suffering from depression and anxiety, but also stems from the fact that Nunavut has some of the highest rates of suicide and mental illness.

She has worked extensively with youth through different organizations where she has promoted mental health education.

Melynda is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Arctic Nursing, which is delivered through the Nunavut Arctic College. She has done relief Life-Skills work at the Mental Health Treatment centre in Iqaluit between studies, as well as summer student work with the Mental Health Nurse at the facility. 

Melynda advocates heavily through her personal social media where she values the ability to share knowledge and resources with her friends; and also advocates through school where she is involved in a Jack Chapter which aims to educate students about mental health, and to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. This Chapter program is offered by Jack.org.

Melynda was raised in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, but currently resides in Iqaluit, Nunavut with her husband and two dogs.

Patrick Hickey
Patrick Hickey

Originally from St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), Patrick joins the Youth Council as a student at Western University in London, Ontario.  Patrick began his efforts as a mental health advocate in high school upon realizing that stigma and systemic silos were keeping community members living with mental health concerns from accessing necessary services.  With unwavering support from his community, this realization guided Patrick to lead a Provincial Youth Mental Wellness conference for NL youth, to become involved with Kids Help Phone’s National Youth Council, to lead mental health workshops in the Canadian North with North In Focus, and to advise the Minister of Health and Community Services for NL on the Minister’s Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Council.  Patrick spent the summer of 2016 as an assistant policy analyst with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and has an incredible amount of respect and admiration for the organization. 

Patrick is fascinated with an individual’s sense of belonging.  He is dedicated to changing people’s every day perspective on mental health in an effort to help strengthen supportive communities in which everyone can find their own sense of belonging, and flourish.

Griffin Jenkins
Griffin Jenkins

Griffin Jenkins comes to the MHCC Youth Advisory Council from Winnipeg, Manitoba where he is the Director of Education and Youth Services for the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba. Since the age of 12, Griffin has been living with Dysthymia and Cyclothymia. Since he got his diagnosis at the age of 14 he has used self-help strategies to deal with his mental illness with the support of his community.

Griffin has been providing peer-support to friends, family, and community members for 4 years now and has been giving presentations about mental health for 3. He uses the ideas of peer-support in all the work that he does and will bring that experience with him as he works on the council. Griffin has played music for the past 10 years and believes that having music as an outlet was a huge factor in his ability to recover as well as he has. He is excited to represent his community on a national scale in this council.

Myriam Lecousy
Myriam Lecousy

Myriam Lecousy is currently a full-time student studying Psychology and Behavioural Science at McGill University, as well as an active member of various mental health programs in Montreal. She is passionate about mental health advocacy and hopes that opening the discussion surrounding mental health will bring more youth together to share their experiences. She experienced her first episode of depression at 13 years old and hopes that sharing her story will reduce stigma surrounding youth and mental health. 

She developed a passion very early on to help others in need. She founded the program “Exprime-Toi” in her last year of high school with the intention of expanding the mental health discussion in her school. This program permitted students to express themselves through all means, such as art and poetry, thus providing a voice to these students about their difficulties. She has since volunteered with various organizations such as U.M.B.R.E.L.L.A., an L.G.B.T.Q. organization that acts as a support group, a club, and a resource center at Vanier College, a Montreal-based anonymous crisis phone line for youth, Face à Face; an organization that offers phone line support, active listening sessions, mental health resources, and special programs for homelessness, and Brain Awareness Montreal, where she gave a public conference to primary and secondary schools. She was also a mentor for youth at Agence Ometz, an organization providing social services to the greater Montreal community.

Don Mahleka
Don Mahleka

Don Mahleka joined the Youth Council in 2013 as the co-founder of a radio show in Hamilton, Ontario called Revolutionary Lives, which strives to reduce stigma, empower youth through leadership and creative outlet opportunities, and collaborate with existing resources in the mental health system in the Hamilton area. In 2013, Don and others on his radio show team secured a grant to host a youth mental health conference, where they advocated for a city-wide youth mental health strategy aligned with recommendations in the Mental Health Strategy for Canada and Evergreen Framework, which provides a vision for transforming Canada’s child and youth mental health system. Having moved to Canada from Zimbabwe, Don is especially interested in promoting diversity and collaboration among providers of youth mental health services, and sits on the Hamilton Youth Advisory Committee, as well as the African Canadian Network of Hamilton board. He brings personal experiences with depression and anxiety to the Youth Council.

Ubah Mohamoud
Ubah Mohamoud

From Edmonton, Alberta, Ubah Mohamoud comes to the Youth Council with a deep passion for elevating the voices of youth struggling with mental health issues. Her passion for promoting mental health awareness and psychoeducation has inspired her to engage with her community through hosting events, workshops and sharing circles inclusive to youth of all ages. Over the years, Ubah has worked alongside various organizations and groups focused on the personal wellness and development for youth from diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. As such, Ubah brings to the council an understanding of the significance of how the various intersections of one’s identity may interact with - and even mediate - their experience of mental health.

Presently, Ubah is training as a counselling therapist while in the process of completing a Masters in psychotherapy focussed on spiritually-integrative therapeutic approaches. Ubah is particularly interested in holistic therapeutic methods and is passionate about contributing to the demystification and break-down of the stigmas that surround mental health and wellness

Katie Robinson
Katie Robinson

Katie Robinson became interested in promoting positive mental health in high school while learning to cope with her own mental illness. She started by volunteering for local agencies, joining youth groups, and speaking about her own experiences. She has also been involved in mental health promotion provincially as a past member of The New Mentality, a network of youth-facilitated groups that partner with local agencies to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

Knowing that mental illness is likely to impact the lives of most Canadians at some point in their lives, Katie has an eagerness to increase awareness and educate the public about mental health and illness. She believes it is vital to continue having open conversations and to support those who are struggling. Most of all, she wants to help others dealing with mental health issues and mental illnesses to know they are not alone. Advocating for mental health, especially among young people, has become an extremely important part of her life.

Katie was born, and currently resides in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She graduated from Lakehead University in 2012 with a degree in Business Administration. Katie looks forward to continuing her education aimed towards working in the children's mental health field.

Madina Sutton
Madina Sutton

Madina (Madi) Sutton is currently a full-time nursing student at Dalhousie University. She plans to specialize in mental healthcare to help save people’s lives as she had others do for her. After being diagnosed at age 12, Madi struggled for six years to manage severe depression & anxiety. She is grateful for the care she received from a dedicated team of professionals at the Garron Centre for Child Adolescent Mental Health in the IWK Health Centre and for the strong support she received from fellow volunteers at organizations such as the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. She speaks at conferences, workshops and in classrooms to promote mental health and prevent mental illness, to reduce stigma, and to raise funds to improve the quality of life of those living with mental illness. She is an active member of the IWK Health Centre’s Youth Advisory Council, the IWK Family Leadership Council, and volunteers for several health-related organizations.

Elyse Trudell
Elyse Trudell

Elyse Trudell is an indefatigable student advocate and French Canadian from a rural community in South-Western Ontario. Elyse is currently completing a Master’s of Occupational Therapy at McMaster University, with an undergraduate degree in Medical Sciences from the University of Western Ontario. She complements her classroom experience as a member of the OT/PT Mental Health Alliance creating and promoting mental health and wellness across faculties. Elyse herself is trained in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Training) and in the process of completing additional mental health specific certifications to inform and benefit her future practice. It is her rich experience facilitating and advocating for comprehensive mental health care within her program and local community that inform her interest in bolstering our health care and education systems to support mental health promotion. Coupled with her lived experience as a user of mental health services for anxiety and mood disorders, Elyse’s passion for wellness and firm belief in enabling individuals to engage in meaningful occupations despite barriers like mental or physical health diagnoses, are dynamic and always growing.