We’re working alongside others in our sector to build a more inclusive and equitable mental health and addictions system for all children, young people and families.

Why equity, diversity and inclusion matter

There are many inequities and disparities that make it more challenging to access quality mental health and addictions care and often lead to poorer health outcomes. Overt prejudice and discrimination, implicit biases, systemic blind spots and social determinants of health — the conditions and environments in which people grow, learn, live and work — all influence when, where and how people seek and access care. These factors can also impact service offerings and care experiences negatively.

Working together to foster equity, diversity and inclusion, we can improve mental health outcomes and contribute to a better quality of life for all people.

Meeting children and young people where they are

Right now, our child and youth mental health and addictions system doesn’t work for everyone.
Adapting programs to meet the needs of racialized children, young people and their families is one step towards better meeting them where they are. That’s where our Innovation Initiative grants come in.
Learn about our Innovation Initiatives grant and meet our most recent recipients who are working to implement and evaluate culturally responsive child and youth mental health and addictions programs in Ontario.

Advancing racial equity

Agencies have long worked to address inequities affecting racialized children, young people and families within their organizations, but coordinated efforts are needed to build an observably more equitable mental health care system. In 2021, we collaborated with Children’s Mental Health Ontario to begin to lay the groundwork for our sector’s collective next steps.

  • First, we developed a literature review highlighting the best available research and practices that could be adopted to advance racial equity.
  • Next, we surveyed our sector to get a snapshot of current racial equity efforts and produced “We journey together”, a report that identifies existing gaps and pinpoints promising practices, tools and resources that can be leveraged to foster equity. 
  • Most recently, we produced resources focusing on collecting and using race-based data and adapting programs to better meet the needs of racialized children and young people.

Additional resources

Intergenerational trauma

Trauma that is experienced by one generation may be transferred to subsequent generations, impacting overall health and well-being. This trauma is often transmitted through parenting and caregiving practices, family functioning and communication patterns shaped by experiences of trauma (e.g. residential school experiences, refugee experiences, physical or sexual abuse) and exposure to parents’ coping mechanisms and challenges.

This tip sheet, created for Good2Talk staff, identifies protective factors that can prevent transmission of trauma from one generation to the next and presents strategies to support young people to heal.

Read the tip sheet

Quality standards for youth and family engagement

Diversity and inclusion is a core principle in both of the engagement quality standards we co-developed with clinicians, researchers, young people and families. This principle emphasizes that high-quality engagement is representative of the communities served and that high quality engagement practices are inclusive and culturally sensitive.

Two other principles in the quality standard for youth engagement —accessibility and safer spaces—also speak to an underpinning value for equity and inclusion.

Raising the bar for 2SLGBTQ+ young people

2SLBTQI+ people often experience stigma and discrimination that not only contribute to their higher risk for many mental health and substance use issues but can also make it more challenging to access services.

We were one of several partners consulted as Wisdom2Action set out to create resources to help guide youth-serving organizations and their 2SLGBTQI+ inclusion efforts.

Access the resources

Peer-reviewed publications

Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, May 2023

Article title: Organizational Practices Advancing Racial Equity (OPARE): Development of a Tool Using an Implementation Science Approach

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Abstract: Organizational practices to advance racial equity are needed to address the systemic nature of racism. Implementation science frameworks offer a comprehensive approach when implementing complex initiatives. We describe the development of a tool to assess organizational practices in advancing racial equity (OPARE). Findings on the acceptability, reliability and preliminary validity are presented based on 98 responses from child and youth mental health agencies across Ontario. The OPARE shows promise as a valid and reliable organizational assessment tool for helping plan, implement and evaluate racial equity efforts in community mental health settings.

Canadian Psychology, July 2022

Article title: Advancing racial equity, diversity and inclusion in Ontario’s child and youth mental health sector: Perspectives of agency leaders.

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Abstract: Systematic challenges in providing culturally responsive mental health and addictions services have produced widespread inequities for racialized service providers, clients, and communities. There is a pressing need for coordinated system-level change. In this article, we present findings from a cross-sectional mixed methods study examining current organizational practices in advancing racial equity in the child and youth mental health and addictions sector in Ontario. To understand current efforts and identify a path forward, we surveyed executive leaders from 102 agencies and conducted case studies with 10 agencies on their practices along five domains: organizational leadership, intersectoral partnerships, workforce diversity and development, client and community engagement, and continuous improvements. Leaders shared a strong desire to advance racial equity and had begun this work to varying degrees. Our findings, in particular the domains examined and barriers and facilitators, can inform parallel efforts in related sectors across Canada and internationally.

Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services, July 2021

Article title: Moving toward racial equity in the child and youth mental health sector in Ontario, Canada

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Abstract: In the aftermath of high-profile incidents involving Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in North America, there is a growing awareness of the pervasiveness of systemic racism and the role that agencies play in perpetuating racism and racial inequities. In the child and youth mental health sector, the journey to improving racial equity is impeded by a lack of consistent frameworks or guidelines. In this commentary, we explore five domains of organizational practices that are prominent in the literature and support diverse clients, communities and staff, including: (1) organizational leadership and commitment, (2) inter-organizational and multisectoral partnerships, (3) workforce diversity and development, (4) client and community needs and engagement and (5) continuous improvement. As we highlight these domains, we urge researchers, policy makers, and child and youth mental health service providers to work together to advance racial equity in meaningful ways.