Why is it important to involve young people in education on cannabis & psychosis? Ally explains…

As the desire for youth-friendly services and spaces becomes more apparent across Canada, you’ve likely heard the term “youth engagement” a lot over the past while. So what is it, why should you care, and why is it essential when providing education in cannabis & psychosis? As a young(ish) person who sits on many advisory councils and committees, I often have to describe youth engagement to adult allies and stakeholders. I often use a dinner table analogy:

Much as you would not invite guests to dinner and then forget to pass the food platters to their end or engage them in conversation, we must always be mindful to listen and share with all of our guests at the table in mental health education. Inviting youth to the table as a formality does not function well, but starves us of companions in the future. Furthermore, this lack of genuine engagement starves our young people emotionally, intellectually, and morally.

Much goes to waste as there is a surplus falling by the wayside; of unvoiced opinions, knowledge, wisdom, and parables. When all who are at the table engage in a potluck of sorts- exchanging “food for thought,” experiences and opinions, and all are open to this, everyone leaves with a little more than when they arrived. Each person feels nourished, re-energized, and a feeling of community and camaraderie that makes future interactions more valuable each time.

Hungry to be involved? Of course, you are! It is this type of community knowledge sharing that makes Exploring the Link such a great approach to education about cannabis and psychosis. By engaging youth who have different lived experiences with cannabis use and/or have experienced psychosis, we can have real conversations and ask questions in a place safe from judgment, stigma, or assumptions.

In preparation to launch this project, a diverse group of people came together; medical students, service providers, researchers, clinicians, current and past cannabis users, those living without mental illness, and those with a mental health diagnosis. Adult allies support the work through the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, but meetings are youth-driven and youth-focused.

With youth from many different provinces, backgrounds, and fields of study represented at the table, this unique situation allows each person to share what they feel are essential topics, comments, and considerations for their specific demographic. Engaging youth in this manner is most impactful at each level of education because it ensures the questions and issues that are truly relevant and meaningful to youth are not only understood but addressed adequately.

What results from this intentional and meaningful youth involvement is what you see before you; a fresh, informative, easy-to-digest digital knowledge network with all you need (or didn’t know you needed) to know about cannabis & psychosis in Canada. If we answer your questions, please let us know so we can keep doing good things! If we don’t, let us know how we can do better! We’re all learning here.

Ally Campbell (she/her) Advocate & Artist, Youth Advisor, Exploring the Link