It took two years of deep inquiry to uncover the leverage point we had been missing. In 2016, the Child & Youth Health Network decided to focus collective efforts on improving the mental health of young people through increasing their connectedness to family, school, community and peers.
Our youth partners were a little surprised that it took us so long to come to that conclusion, because to them it was obvious!
Research shows that connectedness to family, community, school and peers is directly linked to improved mental health for youth, as well as to reduced risk, including less self-harming behaviours, less frequent suicidal ideation and reduced substance use.
Connectedness and a sense of belonging is also linked to increased likelihood of high school graduation and post-secondary planning for youth.
Ideally, connectedness begins in early childhood and continues throughout the lifespan, which is why the network decided to focus on upstream strategies, with an emphasis on the early years.