Community leaders gather to discuss impacts of the pandemic on youth

CENTRE WELLINGTON – On November 16, leaders from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Unit, Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington, The Grove Hubs Wellington Guelph and Dufferin Child and Family Services presented a public youth forum at the The GrandWay Events Centre in Elora.  

Titled “Youth Forum: Addressing the Impacts of the Pandemic on Children and Youth” the event saw presentations from local youth who shared their stories with the public, with local mental experts in children and youth care and services leading discussion on tangible ways to improve access to wellness services and resources for children and youth in our community. 

The event also had over 150 attendees.

“The Youth Forum brought leaders, individuals, and families from across Guelph Wellington together to hear the personal stories of youth in the wake of the pandemic,” said Helen Fishburn, chief executive officer of Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington. 

“By understanding the first-hand experiences of youth, alongside key data indicators, we are all better positioned to make a real difference and respond to growing mental health concerns in a substantial way.” 

Local service providers, mental health experts and youth with lived experience spoke to the community about the lasting effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children and youth. 

“The forum was an amazing day of collaboration and partnership,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer Medical Officer of Health and CEO of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.

“The event identified the need for change and the importance of cooperation to improve the lives and wellbeing of children and youth in our community.” 

By sharing recent findings and key data indicating increased youth mental health concerns, the Youth Forum brought the community together to brainstorm the next steps for a positive and brighter future.  

“Last week’s event highlighted the importance of putting the mental well-being of children and youth at the forefront of our decision-making and public health efforts,” said Jeff Hoffman, interim executive director of The Grove Wellington Guelph. 

“After the event, we are motivated to continue to provide accessible and life-changing resources for children and youth, in partnership with our fellow community leaders,” said Jennifer Moore, chief executive officer of Dufferin Child and Family Services.

The four-hour youth panel addressed the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and youth in Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph. CEO of CMHA WW Helen Fishburn opened up the panel by welcoming everyone. After more introductions into the day, four youth from the area gave their stories on how the pandemic affected them and their mental health. Here, Jenny Marino from UGDSB facilitated the conversation with the four youth: Alba, laloni, Amy and Corvus. Attendees then split off into breakout groups before continuing to the second half of the discussion. Coffee and snacks were also available.