Engaging in Mental Health First Aid Collective Advocacy: A Brainstorm Session

Homewood Research Institute

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated Canada’s ongoing youth mental health crisis. Youth suicide attempt admissions have increase by 100% and interactions with Kids Help Phone’s online resources have more than doubled. Yet, staff that provide programs and services to youth don’t have the necessary training they need to support youth’s mental health and wellness. BGC Canada is exploring launching an advocacy campaign, aimed all levels of government, to increase the number of front-line staff trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). MHFA will help staff increase their confidence interacting with individuals experiencing a mental health challenge and increase support provided to individuals in crisis.

In this workshop, we would like to hear from you to refine our advocacy ask, and discuss strategy, tactics, and approaches to collaborative and effective advocacy.


Jen Turner
Jen Turner is the Manager of Research and Public Policy for BGC Canada (formerly Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada). BGC Canada provides safe, supportive places where children and youth can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships, and develop confidence and skills for life. Jen leads BGC Canada's mental health and child poverty policy engagement strategies, which aim to make positive federal and provincial/territorial policy changes and investment in these two critical areas. Jen has six years of non-profit experience in public policy, research, government relations, evaluation, and community engagement. Jen is about creating system level change in support of marginalized communities. 

Emmanuel Olugbodi
Emmanuel Olugbodi is a member of BGC Winnipeg in Manitoba. As a young leader in his community, he is also a member of the BGC Canada National Youth Council. As a member of the NYC he informs the work of BGC Canada and brings a youth voice to their public policy. He has experience organizing a National Youth Conference, and planning a youth engagement event for youth across the country to meet with their MPs.

Natasha Beedie
Natasha Beedie (she/her) is the Indigenous Community Engagement and Policy Advisor at BGC Canada. Natasha is leading BGC’s creation of a new Indigenous Advisory Circle to ensure the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples are fully incorporated in the work of BGC Canada. She is of mixed settler, Pottawatomi, and Ojibwe descent, a member from Beausoleil First Nation on Gchi’mnissing (Christian Island) and has experience working for many Indigenous-led organizations.

Key takeaways

  • Provides youth with different opportunities across the country
  • Mission: provide supportive places where children and youth can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships, and develop confidence and skills for life
  • Provided clubs: sports teams, community and national youth councils, music
    • Virtual programming over the pandemic
  • 736 club locations across canada
  • Mental health first aid training: an evidence based program created by the mental health commission of canada, similar to the traditional first aid training we know
    • Allows individuals who’ve taken the training to be able to identify when mental health challenges exist, speak to youth about those challenges, refer youth to supports, assist during a mental health crisis
    • Important and beneficial at the clubs because youth who may be going through a mental health crisis may not have positive experiences with emergency service responders and law enforcement, which may cause the youth to become more overwhelmed
  • Covid-19 has exacerbated youth mental health challenges but has also gotten people much more aware of it

Key Learning Objectives (defined by presenters)

  1. Develop a better understanding of MHFA, approaches to collective advocacy and think about government involvement within mental health first aid training in a new way
  2. Learn about new networks that may spawn new partnerships
  3. BGC Canada’s objective for the session is to gain a deeper understanding of how the proposed collective advocacy in support of MHFA resonates with others working in the youth mental health field – as well as their recommendations for advocacy strategies and approaches

Key Themes

  1. Youth mental health support

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