News & Events News & Announcements 2014 Ontario youth SOUND OFF on mental health

Ontario youth SOUND OFF on mental health

TORONTO (January 29, 2014) — Young people in Ontario now have a new way to voice their concerns and change the way mental health issues are dealt with in their communities.  Last week the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO) launched SOUND OFF, a youth-led initiative aimed at empowering and mobilizing youth by collecting and sharing their opinions on what is – and isn’t – working when it comes to their mental health.

Students, youth workers and advocates gathered at the University of Toronto as the SSO unveiled new resources that will help young people play a more active role in the mental health system. The first step of the project is to gather youth perspectives through educational outreach, and a website where youth from across Ontario can anonymously share their opinions on what is working well, an
d what can be improved, to support their mental health in their schools, communities, and media. The goal is to move past the stigma that often surrounds mental health issues, especially when many people try to talk about their experiences with family, friends, or at school.

The next step will be transforming these perspectives into specific policies and actions that will transform approaches to youth mental health in Ontario. By placing youth at the centre of conversations about their mental health, the hope is to make their needs a primary focus of the mental health system, and transform programs and services accordingly.


SOUND OFF Youth Panel (from left to right): Trevain Britton, Ron Mustafaa, Ayesha Jabbar, and Alicia Raimundo

“Too often we see that young people are forced into silence when it comes to their own mental health concerns,” said Mary Alberti, CEO of SSO during her remarks to the audience. “SOUND OFF is going to change all of that — by making sure that youth are finally heard and that they are the ones leading change and defining the supports they need.”

In addition to participating on the website, youth can also take part in the SOUND OFF program, allowing them to do everything from spreading the word to setting the direction that SOUND OFF will take next. The website will continually evolve with the program, and will be a major hub for all aspects of SOUND OFF.

“SOUND OFF isn’t just about collecting facts and ideas from youth, but transforming words into action—it’s about  pushing for a mental health system that accommodates our needs,” said Mona Abadi, Chair of the SOUND OFF program and president of the SSO Youth Advisory Council which worked in partnership to develop the website and guide the direction of the initiative.
 

Catherine Allman (left), volunteer with the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and SSO CEO Mary Alberti 

Over 1 in 5 youth in Canada will experience a mental illness. However, very few will actually seek treatment. Barriers to accessing treatment and support include long waiting times, difficulty in navigating the system, as well as dealing with the stigma that often comes with mental illness. As a result, only about 1 in 4 youth will actually seek help. The current situation needs to change and that is why SSO is asking youth across Ontario to SOUND OFF.

To SOUND OFF or participate in the program, please visit soundoffca.ca. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario 
The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of people, families and communities affected by schizophrenia and psychotic illnesses. The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario is a province-wide charitable organization that was founded in 1979 by Bill and Dorothy Jefferies in an attempt to build awareness about serious mental illnesses and to support families and individuals living with these illnesses.
 
Today the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario provides a range of support services; education initiatives; awareness, information and knowledge building programs; advocacy; youth-oriented programming and a diverse research program with both funded independent studies and in-house research; all geared to breaking down stigma and improving the quality of life for individuals who are living with schizophrenia and psychosis and their families and caregivers.

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Media contact: Alexander Ross, Communications Officer, Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, 416 449 6830 x 257

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