Catalyst – February 2018 – Food for thought: A youth perspective on recovery-oriented practice

The MHCC Youth Council creates a video and discussion guide for service providers

The Mental Health Commission of Canada’s (MHCC) Youth Council has created a video and discussion guide to help service providers understand the needs of youth when it comes to recovery-oriented practice.

Released this February, Food for thought: A youth perspective on recovery-oriented practice breaks down what youth see as some of the core principles of recovery-oriented mental health and addiction services. Using the metaphor of a restaurant interaction between a server and a patron, it provides a light-hearted demonstration of the key concepts of recovery-oriented practice.

Recovery can be a difficult concept to grasp, admits Don Mahleka, a Youth Council member actively involved in developing the video.  It refers to living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life, even when a person may be experiencing ongoing symptoms of a mental health problem or illness.

Mahleka says the video speaks to the kind of considerations that young people would like to be extended. “Everybody can relate to restaurant service—being served hot sauce when you didn’t ask for it, or given food with a bug in it.”

In a recovery-oriented system, service providers engage in shared decision-making, offering a range of services and supports to fully meet a person’s goals and needs.

The vignettes in the video are likened to experiences of inadequate mental health service.

“The message young people are giving here is pretty clear,” says Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the MHCC. “Don’t order my meal, season it, tell me when I’m finished and invite me not to come back!”

Mahleka agrees. “As much as the metaphor can’t unpack everything, the video clips show the disappointments and frustrations young people sometimes experience that others may not see,” explains Mahleka.

The video is intended to provoke thoughtful discussion among services providers and the accompanying discussion guide, with its key messages and reflective questions, can be used in a variety of settings including team meetings, staff orientations, in conversations with young people or more broadly with youth advisory groups.

This new resource is inspired by the MHCC’s Guidelines for Recovery-Oriented Practice, originally released in 2015.  Densely packed with information, this guide seeks to build common understanding, shared language and knowledge of recovery policies, programs and practices, and provide a tool to help transform practice, culture, and service delivery. It also emphasizes that recovery-oriented mental health services must be responsive and adapted across the lifespan, including for youth.

The MHCC Youth Council was a natural fit to expand on recovery from the youth perspective. It is made up of young people between the ages of 18 and 30 who have lived experience with mental health problems or illnesses, either personally or through a family member or friend.

Mahleka notes this project was a great example of youth engagement. The process involved youth from conception to implementation, amplifying their input and suggestions to get an authentic product reflective of diverse youth backgrounds and intersectional youth identities.

Laughing at food as a recurring theme, Mahleka likens the Youth Council’s involvement to that of baking a cake. “We weren’t just handed a cake to be iced. We were asked what type we’d like to make, invited to flesh out the recipe and bake it together. Clearly the Youth Council loves food.”

Learn more about the MHCC’s recovery initiatives.

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