Logo for youth initiative featuring the phrases "yo bro" and "yo girl" in bold lettering, styled within circles on a black background.

Youth are suffering in silence.

Between 15% and 25% of Canadians experience at least one mental health problem or illness before they turn 19, and these individuals have a higher likelihood than others of facing a second one later in their lifetime.(1) The pervasive silence around children’s mental health and youth mental health challenges means that very few will receive the support and care they need. Strong emotional development in childhood is crucial to laying a good foundation for mental health and emotional stability as an adult. Stress, poverty, lack of food security and social connections in the early years interrupt children’s physical, social, spiritual and mental development.

Why is this happening?

Youth at-risk often experience compounding factors that overshadow any struggles with their mental health. For example, if a young person is worried about where their next meal is coming from, or their parents’ capacity to pay rent, they are unlikely to focus on their mental health. Youth at-risk are vulnerable to managing mental health struggles through drug use and gang recruitment. Mental illnesses can affect how well kids do in school and how they form relationships with other kids and adults.(3) If they don’t have a healthy community to belong to, where healthy relationships and behaviours can form, they will look for help in dangerous places and situations.

Many of my students have been exposed to the pitfalls of addiction, prostitution and gang life. It has become all too common that students leave elementary school at the age of 12 only to be fully engaged in an addiction within a few years. It is a major issue that has yet to be dealt with in an effective manner. Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiative is out to change that.”

Caring communities make a difference.

At Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiative, we know that caring and supportive community makes a difference for youth struggling with mental health challenges and teen depression. Our strength-based programs are delivered in the classroom, after school and during school breaks. Curriculum-driven and designed to meet the Ministry of Education’s Learning Outcomes our programs nurture skills, attitudes and beliefs that help young people face life’s challenges with confidence.

Early intervention works.

Through our caring community, youth are reconnected to their schools, communities, and support networks, and are engaged in creating new opportunities to feel safe, be heard and belong. A young person may continue to struggle, but with positive adult mentors and friends, we’ve seen that youth at-risk can have the resilience they need to overcome their teen mental health challenges.