Immigrant Youth Wellness Summit 2020 Recap

Immigrant Youth Wellness Summit 2020 Recap

United Voices is collaborative committee made-up of multidisciplinary partners who have a stake in the importance of mental health and wellness amongst the newcomer youth population.

CMHA Calgary’s YouthSMART program took part in The 2nd Annual United Voices Immigrant Youth Wellness Summit on November 21, 2020, through Zoom.

The United Voices Summit focuses on youth from all backgrounds between the ages of 12 – 20, who take part in a fun day of stories from inspirational immigrant speakers and interactive break-out sessions, all while learning how to battle the stigma surrounding mental health.

Hanne Brahim, Team Manager of Core Connections at Immigrant Services Calgary, says United Voices stands as one of Canada’s first mental health conferences focused on immigrant youth.

“Immigrant Services Calgary (ISC) created the United Voices committee in order to promote mental health awareness, especially with immigrant and refugee youth […] ISC has been the chair of the committee for the past 2 years.”

This year’s virtual invitation allowed youth from all over the country to join, listen and create like-minded solutions to difficult mental health problems with their peers.

“Thanks to adaptability, United Voices was able to break the previous record by receiving 231 youth registrations to the event including youth from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” Brahim said.

Immigrant Youth Wellness Summit 2020

As a founding community partner of United Voices, CMHA Calgary along with several other multidisciplinary organizations, collaborate year-round to break down barriers in accessing mental health supports and information.

“CMHA [Calgary] is a key player in the United Voices committee. CMHA has guided the committee in the right direction to make sure United Voices empowers youth while building on their strengths,” said Brahim.

CMHA YouthSMART Education Lead, Ashley Lamantia, attended the United Voices Summit as one of the subcommittee speakers.

“…I utilized my experience from past YouthSMART Summits to support the needs of this year’s event speakers, as well as moderate a Q&A after each keynote. These speakers included, Canadian Football Hall of Famer Jon Cornish and pop singer and inspirational speaker Genesis Lamboson. I also led two breakout rooms, where we discussed stigma and empathy, as well as conducted some action planning surrounding projects and events that students could do within their own communities following the Summit.”

Lamantia was particularly moved by the participation of the attendants and how they were able to open up and be vulnerable when discussing their journeys with mental health.

United Voices contributes to research in the field of newcomer youth mental health, informs new work, and embarks on a variety of youth initiatives.

“Keynote speaker Genesis sang beautifully about ‘finding our voice,’ and I believe this event encouraged all youth participants to do just that. They learned more about mental health and mental illness from within the context of an immigrant or newcomer lens, and decided for themselves how they want to combat stigma in their communities.”

As the event progressed, Lamantia observed how the youth’s strategic conversations were all about building the required skills and confidence to become advocates and changemakers.

“I am always incredibly inspired by youth, and their desire and commitment to bust through stigma and make a positive impact on their community. YouthSMART knows that students are incredibly influential amongst their peers, within their schools, families, and communities, and the young people who attended The United Voices Immigrant Youth Wellness Summit were no exception. It was such a powerful day!”

Youth Are The Future

The success of this year’s United Voices event is due to the ongoing support, execution and passion of all participating committee members, speakers and attendees.

Brahim, along with the rest of the committee, are delighted that the participants remained optimistic about the Summit due to the sudden change of plans.

“Even though there is so much screen burnout, and youth have identified being tired of virtual programming, they still felt it was important to participate in this year’s United Voices: Immigrant Youth Wellness Summit.”

Hanne Brahim | Immigrant Services Calgary

With 21 local organizations collaborating and many more to join in the near future, United Voices is looking to expand and grow their platform to a national scale.

“We use each partners’ strength to have a high functioning committee. Some agencies focus on newcomer services, others in mental health, and some are youth-serving agencies. This way we can provide the best service that we can to immigrant and refugee youth.”

If you would like to watch the 2nd Annual United Voices Immigrant Youth Wellness Summit, check out Part 1 on Facebook Watch by clicking the link here.

Our Peer Support program services can be accessed over the phone at 403-297-1402 or through email at peer@cmha.calgary.ab.ca. Counselling programs for Suicide Bereavement and Family Support are also still available through phone at 403-297-1708, email counsellingintake@cmha.calgary.ab.ca or online through Community Connect YYC.

YouthSMART would like to thank Sagium and Kinsted Wealth for being our 2020 – 2021 website sponsor.