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atlantic summit 2020 synthesis

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Meet the delegates

Meet the delegates

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Identify as members of the LGBTQ2S+ community
Identify as having a disability
Identify as having lived experience of mental health struggle
Identify as having lived experience with mental illness

Background & context

We asked you what creates mental health struggle among young people and prevents them from seeking help. Here is what you had to say:
78% of delegates in Atlantic Canada attributed youth mental health struggle to academic stressors.

80% said there is a lack of knowledge about the signs and symptoms of mental health struggle.

78% said stigma prevented people from seeking help.


74% said young people find it challenging to navigate the mental health system.


76% cited wait times as a barrier to help seeking.

Backgroud & context
Keynote speakers

Keynote speakers

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MAJE from Youth Art Connection

MAJE is a local hip hop artist and entrepreneur hailing from the community of East Preston. In 2015, he was the winner of the Viola Desmond Songwriting Competition and the recipient of a $10,000 cash prize. Since then he has been nominated for numerous awards including Video of the Year for his song Smile through Music Nova Scotia, and Hiphop Artist of the Year via East Coast Music Association. Just last year he was given the opportunity to attend an Artist Residency in Atlanta, Georgia. He's also last year’s winner of the Casino Nova Scotia's Artist In Residency, which is accompanied by a $20,000 grant towards his music career.

JackORG - AtlanticSummit - StooMetz-149.
Savvy Simon

Savvy Simon is an educator, entrepreneur, activist, mentor, and entertainer. She was the only First Nations person to speak on stage in front of 12,000 at WE Day Halifax. She was a Top 40 Female Change Maker in Canada, a TedX speaker, and a former Native dancer of the Vancouver Olympics. She is the creator of the #SpeakMikmaq Language revolution from the Mi’kmaq people of Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick. Her social media videos have been in the curriculums of universities, high schools, and colleges. Savvy has a passion for greater health and happiness, and her approach to sharing positivity in a real and authentic way has gained a following of over 45,000, leading them to reach their greatest potential!

Collab 1

Collaboration session #1


How do people think and talk about mental health in your community?

  • Young people often have conversations about mental health both in person and online. Adults are far less aware and engaged in discussions about mental health.

  • Mental health struggles like anxiety and depression are often discussed openly, but other mental illnesses are still taboo.

  • Despite progress, conversations that are highly insensitive about mental health—where someone will brush off mental health struggle with jokes, insults or minimizing comments— still happen. 

  • While some find social media and meme culture as useful tools to initiate positive conversations, others describe memes as damaging and inappropriate.

  • Many conversations about mental health are still only ‘surface level’ and lack depth.

  • There is a gender divide in discussions, and some young people see ‘toxic masculinity’ as a barrier to talking about mental health.


 What keeps people from seeking help?

  • Not perceiving their struggle as bad enough, not feeling deserving of support, and not wanting to be a burden on a strained system.

  • Lack of services in rural areas.

  • Services are often not appropriate, inclusive, or representative for certain populations, including those whose first language is French, Indigenous groups, immigrants and newcomers, and men.

  • Lack of knowledge of what mental health services exist in the community and how to access them.

  • Negative views about services, and perceptions that seeking help will be a difficult and expensive process with long waitlists and a lack of specialized staff.

  • Stigma, both personal (i.e. minimizing one’s own struggle or feeling embarrassed) and from the community (i.e. fear of being judged or not taken seriously).


What gaps can you identify in your community’s mental health system?

  • There is a huge shortage of resources: lack of services in rural communities, long wait times, shortages of staff, and inflexible services.

  • There are gaps in appropriate and inclusive services for all populations, including those whose first language is French, Indigenous groups, and those who identify as LGBTQ2S+.

  • Disjointed services mean people get lost during the referral process, especially as youth transition from youth to adult care.

  • A lack of education about the services available and no unified source of information.

Collaboration session #2:


What goals can we set to address the problem?

  •  Holding more educational events, including embedding mental health in the curriculum to increase knowledge of mental health from an earlier age.  

  • Increasing resources and accessibility for mental health services — more rural services, affordable options, shorter wait-times, more staff overall, more specialists, and more inclusive services.

  • Encouraging more open and deeper conversations on mental health within the community, educating our networks, sharing experiences, and being there for each other.  

  • Ensuring all those who are working with youth receive mental health training.

Collab 2
Collab 3

Collaboration session #3:

Thinking about other youth advocacy movements, what are some opportunities for us?

  • Connect our campaigns with other causes and activist groups (climate justice, social inequalities, racism, sexism, etc.).

  • Political action – creating opportunities for students to vote in decision making at universities and at government level. Lobbying local and federal politicians.

  • Work with civil society as a social movement, including demonstrations and marches.

  • Championing minority groups and recognizing the voices of people who may be marginalized.


How can you take some of the skills you've learned at the Atlantic Summit back to your community to work towards some of the goals you've identified?


  • Networking and collaboration with other advocates in my community and more widely.

  • Use the troubleshooting skills taught in the Advocacy Roadblocks workshop to identify the root cause of a challenge to my advocacy work and find a solution.

  • Increase dedicated time to self-care, especially boundary setting and positive affirmations.

Copy of JackORG - AtlanticSummit - StooM

Collaboration session #4:


If you could speak to an adult ally (i.e. principal, policy maker) for support to improve youth mental health, what would you tell them?


  • Incorporate mental health awareness and learning in all education spaces.

  • Invest in mental health services, specifically in rural-remote areas.

  • Listen to young people and communicate with us when changes are made.

  • Diversify services for inclusion and equity of access.

  • Address social and economic factors that affect mental health, including financial concerns, housing, and food security.

  • Acknowledge the gravity of the situation, and that real change is urgently needed.

Copy of JackORG - AtlanticSummit - StooM
Collab session 4

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.

Key takeaways

Next steps

Eradicate stigma.

  • Have one conversation with an adult about mental health in your community.

  • Sign up for a Do Something initiative at Look for the initiatives marked Attitudes to address stigma in your community.

  • Start or join a Jack Chapter. Chapters work year round in communities all across the country – even during COVID-19!

Advocate for better services.

  • Write letters to your local governments about how important local mental health services are. Encourage all your friends to do the same. Start a Google Hangout where you can all write your letters together!

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

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

  • Read and share's Youth Voice Report, which uses youth insight to make five key recommendations to adult allies on how they can promote better youth mental health.

Encourage community care.

  • Start with self-care — as an advocate, make time to take breaks and care for your own mental health. Get started at our COVID-19 Youth Mental Health Resource Hub.

  • Have a conversation with someone in your life that could use some support.

  • Check out our Virtual Jack Talk and consider sharing it with someone in your life who could benefit from mental health education.

  • 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!


Make sure you join the Network Facebook Group to stay connected to the movement.

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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