On Friday March 22nd, 2013, participants at the Being Proactive II: Looking after the Mental Health and Well-Being of Children and Youth conference gathered to share insights on how to better provide community, schooling, institutional and societal supports that nurture coping strategies and foster resilience in children and youth. About 200 participants (mental health professionals, educators, individuals working in the criminal justice system, front-line workers, and children and youth professionals from the various social service sectors) explored ways to address systemic barriers such as poverty, racism, and violence that affect the mental health and well-being of today’s youth. An often-repeated theme was that the issues cannot be addressed solely at the individual or family level but must be situated within a more comprehensive framework of organizational change and societal transformation.
A collaboration of Department of Justice Canada, Ministry of Children and Youth Services, York Centre for Education and Community, Toronto District School Board, and the Youth Association for Academics, Athletics, and Character Education, this 2013 conference built on themes that arose in the inaugural 2012 Being Proactive Conference. Keynote presentations, workshops, and panel discussions focused on how our systems, communities, and schools can become more proactive in supporting the mental health and well-being of children and youth, especially those who may experience heightened vulnerability due to demographic factors.
The critical question being: How can we ensure that our communities and schools are environments characterized by social cohesion and trust, so that all children and youth – especially those who are disadvantaged, marginalized and racialized – have access to the social, cultural, psychological, educational and material resources that sustain mental health and well-being?