The Youth Engagement Initiative (YEI) operates within the Child, Youth and Emerging Adult Program at CAMH and is supported by the Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth and Family Mental Health. The goal of the YEI is to facilitate collaboration between youth (16-29) with lived experience of mental health and/or substance use challenges, service providers and researchers to create opportunities for young people to actively participate in organizational decision making and programming. The YEI is guided by the McCain Model of youth engagement, which was developed using evidence to support youth-adult partnerships in a mental health-care environment.
The YEI supports young peoples’ engagement in research projects. Youth are engaged as members of the research team and help determine research questions, guide recruitment, lead focus groups and develop youth-friendly study materials. The YEI supports the development of youth-led research projects, where they are mentored by experienced researchers. Youth on the YEI are active in knowledge translation and have developed multiple resources for youth by youth. An example includes the co-development of the youth version of the Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, an evidence-based public health intervention tool with the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM). In addition, young people regularly lead consultations to support service design and delivery. They were engaged in supporting preliminary consultations for the Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario Initiative. They also take an active role at the organizational level where they sit on project steering committees to design new initiatives and strategies and guide clinical programming.