Our youth advisory council (the Youth council) builds on the capacity of young people to improve child and youth mental health and addictions services across Ontario by speaking to, and acting on, issues that impact or are important to young people. The Youth council reflects our commitment to meaningful youth engagement; we rely on young people's perspectives as well as integral input, expertise and guidance to ensure our policies, approaches, initiatives and other work are responsive to the evolving needs of young people.

Member responsibilities

The purpose of the Youth council includes:

  • advising on our strategic directions and activities
  • empowering youth representatives to lead and inform key decisions in the development, implementation and evaluation of our initiatives
  • building meaningful, professional relationships between council members
  • augmenting the capacity of our youth engagement team by acting as a mechanism for project support, when needed
  • ensuring alignment with our strategic advisory council through consistent youth liaison representing both councils

Meet the Youth council

The Youth council consists of about a dozen diverse youth from across the province.

Portrait of Abby Lopez

Abby Lopez

Abby Lopez is studying social work, with a minor in children and youth studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford.Currently working as a youth advocate for Woodview: Mental Health and Autism Services, Abby is interested in making a career in youth mental health.She became interested in the mental health sector when she was diagnosed with a mental illness at age 14. She hopes her own experience battling through the ups and downs of the mental health system will help her help others. In her spare time, Abby loves to paint and read.

Portrait of  Anvita Desai

Anvita Desai

Anvita Desai is studying knowledge integration and cognitive science at the University of Waterloo. She is passionate about working in the mental health sector and has volunteered with us since she was 15! After graduating, Avita plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work and hopes to continue to dedicate her time and efforts to initiatives that value youth engagement, health equity, harm reduction and accessibility. In her free time, Anvita enjoys reading, swimming and listening to true crime podcasts.

Portrait of Brett Recollet

 Brett Recollet

Brett Recollet is studying Indigenous social work at Laurentian University, while working part time as an Indigenous support worker for the Rainbow District School Board. As a First Nations man from the Whitefish River First Nation, Brett has a strong understanding of what mental health looks like for Indigenous populations. He has been working with us for six years, beginning initially as a youth engagement facilitator. For fun, Brett enjoys playing volleyball, swimming, golfing and spending time with his family and friends.

Portrait of Christina Robert

Christina Robert

Christina Robert is studying kinesiology at Laurentian University and hopes to become a dermatologist. She has been involved in student council and peer mentoring in university and worked with organizations like the Track North Athletic Club. As a competitive athlete, Christina experienced her own mental health challenges and witnessed how mental health concerns impacted other young people in school, sports and day-to-day life. She is now passionate about helping friends, peers and family members become the best version of themselves. As a hobby, Christina likes capturing beautiful moments through photography.

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Deepika Kumar

Deepika Kumar is completing her master’s degree in public policy and administration (MPPA) at Ryerson University. She is passionate about developing and enhancing evidence-based government policies to offer the most appropriate health programs and services for children and young people. In the future, Deepika hopes to fight mental health challenges by promoting stronger labour market outcomes for young people and working collaboratively with community stakeholders to address the social determinants of health. During her free time, she enjoys travelling and spending time with family and friends.

Portait of Erika Dupuis

Erika Dupuis

Erika Dupuis is a registered social worker, working in the mental health and addictions sector in the Greater Toronto Area. They also work with the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council, the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning and the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Erika’s main interests include food justice, reproductive justice and harm reduction. They’re also keen to ensure that healthcare policies and programs meaningfully address young people’s concerns. For fun, Erika enjoys cooking, trying new coffee blends and hiking at local conservation areas.

Portrait of Gagandeep Virdi

Gagandeep Virdi

Gagandeep Virdi is currently pursuing her master’s degree in public health at Brock University. Highly motivated and passionate about youth engagement and health, Gagandeep became interested in the mental health sector early in university, while taking mental health courses. She began working at the Lynwood Charlton Centre and Thrive Child and Youth Trauma Centre to get hands-on experience and is certified in mental health first aid. Gagan is also accomplished in tae kwon do: she was on Team Canada in 2010.

Portrait of Katlyn Kotila

Katlyn Kotila

Katlyn Kotila is pursuing her undergraduate degree in political science and communications at Laurentian University. Born and raised in northern Ontario, she became passionate about improving mental health infrastructure because of her own experiences accessing services. Through public speaking and volunteer work, she uses her story as a suicide-loss survivor and a member of the 2SLGBTQI+ community to advocate for greater intersectionality and accessibility within the mental health sector. Katlyn’s favourite way to rest and recharge is by playing video games.

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Layne Pattinson

Layne Pattison is studying nursing at Laurentian University and plans to focus her career on providing accessible mental health and addictions services for Indigenous peoples. As a Aatikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nations woman with first-hand experience accessing mental health services, Layne has a deep understanding of what accessing health looks like for Indigenous populations and she is passionate about improving it. When she has free time, Layne loves to spend it outdoors, hanging out with friends and riding horses.

Portrait of Mahalia Dixon

Mahalia Dixon

Mahalia Dixon is a young person from Toronto who is passionate about mental health, harm reduction and youth engagement. She has been involved with mental health systems as a client, volunteer and staff member. Mahalia is also a youth advisor for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. She is always eager to provide holistic support to young people through a non-judgmental, inclusive and empowering practice. In her free time, Mahalia loves to read, write and spend time with friends.

Portrait of Nicholas Jakubiak

Nicholas Jakubiak

Nick Jakubiak has been involved with social work for more than three years and plans to obtain a Bachelor of Social Work. He found this passion as a client at Skylark, which opened the door to many volunteer and work opportunities in mental health and harm reduction communities, including this one. In his free time, Nick enjoys listening to rap music and is currently learning German.

Portrait of Raissa Aqila Amany

Raissa Aqila Amany

Raissa Amany is studying health sciences at the University of Ottawa. She is interested in public health, health equity and access, specifically within the mental health sector. Having personal experience of the mental health system in Ontario, Raissa advocates to reduce barriers and improve youth engagement sector-wide. She has worked with various organizations including the Youth Services Bureau, the Federation of Canadian Secondary Students/Fédération des élèves du secondaire au Canada and the Ottawa Hospital and even founded her own organization, called ConnectSTEM. For fun, Raissa enjoys binge-watching medical shows, drinking bubble tea and trying out the latest food trends.

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William McCormick

William McCormick is studying health promotion with a minor in communications at Laurentian University. He hopes to become a psychiatrist. William has a passion for mental health advocacy and has worked with various organizations, including the Myths and Mirrors community arts program and the Sudbury Chief’s youth advisory council. He has also taken an active role in developing outreach events aimed at destigmatizing and raising awareness for mental health issues, such as the Defeat Depression walk. In his spare time, William enjoys playing and watching sports — primarily baseball.