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national summit

2020 synthesis

May 4-8 2020: 250 delegates from all over Canada came together online for the first-ever Virtual Summit Experience (VSE).


It was about pushing the youth mental health movement forward. It was about celebrating what we’ve accomplished, while preparing for the critical work ahead. Because until all young people across the country have access to the mental health support they deserve...we’re not done yet!

Meet the delegates

Meet the delegates


Global delegates

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identify as female
identify as Indigenous
identify as male
identify as part of the LGBTQ2S+ community
identify as queer/
identify as racialized
identify as having a disability
identify as having a diagnosed mental illness




What you told us about your experience at VSE.

94% left VSE with confidence in their ability to identify mental health needs in their communities. 

85% left VSE with confidence in their ability to take action to address mental health.

92% left VSE with confidence in their skills to promote mental health.

88% left VSE feeling connected to a national mental health movement.

88% found the meeting session with Minister Chagger valuable.

82% felt more connected to government decisions.

Keynote Speakers 1

Keynote Speakers

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Dr. Ivan Joseph

Ivan is an internationally renowned speaker, bestselling author, award-winning performance coach, in-demand consultant, prominent educator and accomplished leader. He has spent his career leading cultural transformation, inspiring people to believe in themselves, creating cohesive teams, and unlocking the secret to surpassing expectations. Ivan served as Director of Athletics at Ryerson University for a decade, and is now the Vice-Provost of Student Affairs at Dalhousie University, where he leads the university’s effort to promote interconnectedness and belonging among a diverse student body.

Swathi Shanmukhasundaram

Swathi is a 25-year-old law graduate, Indian-born migrant, and proud Tamil woman from Melbourne, Australia who advocates for the promotion of mental health literacy in refugee and migrant communities. Swathi currently leads The Vermilion Project, where she fuses her love for law, advocacy and community to promote the economic and social participation of people affected by mental health conditions and invisible illnesses. She was recognised as a Young Social Pioneer by the Foundation for Young Australians, Create Change Fellow at Democracy in Colour, Global Shaper (an initiative of the World Economic Forum), and is the Victorian State Representative for the Youth Advocacy Network to MYAN Australia.  She currently balances all of that while working in the not-for-profit and legal sectors in Melbourne.

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Collab Sessions

Collaboration Sessions


To get a better idea of the mental health stressors that young people are facing, we asked:


How has the pandemic revealed gaps in our social, economic, and health systems? 


  • The lack of access to internet, computer, and/or cell reception for remote or low income communities is a barrier to education, social connection, and mental health services.

  • There is a lack of versatile, responsive care in mental health systems, including culturally sensitive and youth-focused services. 

  • Essential workers are undervalued and not provided with the protections that they need. 

  • Physical distancing is further limiting access to essential mental health services for underserved populations (including those in rural areas, those earning a low income, Indigenous people, immigrants, those using addiction services, and those experiencing homelessness,).


What have we realized is possible? What opportunities has the pandemic opened up?


  • Though telehealth services are not accessible due to internet and cell service restriction in all communities, the use of digital resources is promising for remote communities. 

  • COVID-19 and physical distancing prove that it is possible to make work, school, and healthcare more accessible as policies for working from home, accommodations, and virtual engagement become normalized. 


What have we realized are our communities’ strengths, resources, and connections during this time? 


  • During COVID-19, communities have been coming together to support one another through mutual aid and community care. 

  • COVID-19 revealed strong connections with loved ones and community members in new and meaningful ways, and enhanced our appreciation of land and nature. 


What are potential solutions to address the gaps that have been identified, and how can we leave the pre-COVID world behind? 


  • Expansion of mental health education and funding of mental health services is necessary to reach all communities, as it ensures people have the tools they need to support each other and to access support. 

  • Increasing access to internet and cell reception would create access to mental health services, education, and employment opportunities. 

  • Establishing and investing in population-specific mental health services (i.e. culturally sensitive and youth-focused services) as well as training and capacity building for mental health staff and those who interact with youth will help to ensure equitable access to services for all young people.

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Key takeaways

  • There has been real progress in reducing stigma but not in all demographics and not in relation to all mental health struggles. There is still crucial work to be done in pursuing honest and safe conversations and reducing shame or judgment.

  • Gaps in resource availability and accessibility must be addressed. This includes providing services in rural communities, addressing wait times, increasing the number of mental health workers, reducing the cost of services, (comma) and providing more flexible and specialized support.

  • Conversations, activism, and all services in the mental health space must be inclusive, including diversity within staff bodies and tailored approaches for more equitable access and outcomes.

Keynote Speakers 2

Keynote Speakers

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Kenzie Brenna

Kenzie Brenna is a 30-year-old mental health advocate and actress from Toronto. Kenzie struggled with an eating disorder and body image issues, and now uses her experiences to educate others about the power of self-love. She uses her social media platforms as a tool to capture life in a transparent and authentic way, and encourages her community to find boldness within themselves, and cultivate vulnerability, and love fearlessly.

Michael Champagne

Michael Redhead Champagne, born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End, is an award-winning community organizer, public speaker and a proud member of Shamattawa First Nation. He is solution oriented and passionate about building system-literacy, encouraging volunteerism, and engaging communities to be involved in the design, delivery, and evaluation of any initiative that affects them. Whether he is speaking to educators, youth, the business community or the not-for-profit sector, his goal is the same: to help heal, shape and create a call to action for everyone.

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Youth Voice

Youth Voice


We wanted to get a clearer picture of what created mental health struggle and what stops people from accessing support in their communities. 

Here’s what respondents identified as barriers:

  • Long wait times for mental health services (89%) 

  • Lack of knowledge of mental health resources (87%) 

  • Not knowing who to speak to when struggling (85%) 

  • Stigma about mental health struggle (85%)

  • Resources are unaffordable (80%) 


Here’s what respondents identified as causing mental health struggle:

  • Academic stress (94%)

  • Financial stress (92%)

  • Relationships with family (83%)

  • Social media (78%)


To better understand the state of youth mental health right now, we asked about the impact of the response to COVID-19 on mental health. Here’s what respondents said:

  1. I feel supported by my school during the COVID-19 crisis. 

    • 46% agree

    • 19% disagree

    • 35% neutral

  2. I feel connected to my peers during this time of physical distancing.

    • 45% agree

    • 20% disagree

    • 35% neutral

  3. I accessed in-person mental health services before the COVID-19 crisis.

    • 62% agree

    • 34% disagree

    • 4% neutral

  4. I've accessed or tried to access digital mental health services during the COVID-19 crisis.

    • 22% agree

    • 59% disagree

    • 19% neutral

  5. I believe digital mental health services would meet my mental health needs.

    • 32% agree

    • 60% disagree

    • 8% neutral

  6. I  believe digital mental health services would meet my mental health needs as well as in-person services.

    • 36% agree

    • 21% disagree

    • 43% neutral

  7. The climate crisis negatively affects my mental health.

    • 48% agree

    • 25% disagree

    • 27% neutral

  8. I am concerned about the broader mental health impacts of climate change.

    • 47% agree

    • 25% disagree

    • 26% neutral

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Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

Dismantling Barriers with Minister Chagger


We presented ten recommendations on how the federal government can better support youth mental health to Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger, and Parliamentary Secretary Adam van Koeverden. Representatives from each region of the country met with Minister Chagger and her team to discuss a region-specific barrier and a solution.

Next Steps

Keep going.

  • Send your region's recommendation letter to other representatives in your area.​​

  • Blog or vlog about your advocacy work and share your story publicly. Reach out to if you want any coaching or support, and share your final product with us so we can amplify it!

  • Continue educating yourself about mental health barriers and supports in your community. Keep a journal of your research to help inform your advocacy work. 

Advocate for better services.

  • Research organizations or supports in your community that are culturally appropriate and run by local community members. Volunteer with them and share their information widely with your social networks.

  • Write an op-ed about the importance of local mental health services. Share it with us at, local media, and your social networks.

  • Consider doing the Campus Assessment Tool to dig deep into mental health services at your school, and identify possible improvements. Email to learn more.

Encourage community care.

  • Become a Jack Talks speaker and educate young people about how to recognize signs of struggle and support one another.

  • Share widely with friends and family so they are better able to be there for one another.

Next Steps

And don't forget!

Connect and share with the national movement at


Jack Chapters → Bring lasting change to your community by starting or joining a Jack Chapter. Reach out to to get the ball rolling.

Jack Talks → Talks provide young people with the education to recognize signs of struggle and route people to the support they need. You can bring one to your community, host a Virtual Jack Talk, or become a Jack Talks speaker at

Do Something → The mental health movement is shaping systems, smashing stigma, and so much more. Every action is essential. Start a Do Something initiative in your community.


Be There → People are getting better at speaking up about struggle, but too few of us know how to give that essential support. Be There exists to guide you through the basics. Whether you have 5 minutes or 5 hours, get started at

Thank you to our revolutionary sponsor.

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