ACCESS Open Minds, CAMH, YWHO, and Foundry launch first-of-its kind initiative to help young people with mental health challenges find employment

At a time when Canadian youth are experiencing an increase in mental health challenges, and are also disproportionately experiencing higher rates of unemployment and disruptions in education due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is an urgent need to provide targeted help to this demographic.

Dr. Srividya Iyer

Dr. Eric Latimer
Dr. Valérie Noël

On May 5, 2021, Future Skills Centre announced a $3.8M investment to support the expansion of a project called, What works for work? Employment integration in youth service hubs across Canada. This project is led by Drs. Srividya Iyer (Douglas Research Centre), Joanna Henderson (CAMH), and Skye Barbic (UBC), and builds on an initial investment of $2.32M in June 2020 to integrate an evidence-based supported employment and education intervention into integrated youth services hubs that were developed as part of ACCESS Open Minds, Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario, and Foundry to address mental health, substance use, physical health, and social support needs among youth. This new investment will allow for the expansion of the program from the existing two hubs to a total of 12 hubs across the country, enabling the program to serve over 700 youths aged 12 to 25.

This project strengthens services by implementing and evaluating the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model, which provides youth with personalized and optimized opportunities for employment, education and training. IPS is an evidence-informed model of supported employment for people with mental health challenges and has been adapted to include education supports for youth. IPS is unique because it adopts a “place-then-train” approach instead of focusing on pre-employment training like traditional supported employment programs. This model ensures that employment specialists are integrated into the mental health services team and work to help youth find, secure and keep meaningful employment. Low- or no-service barriers, competitive employment, meaningful job search and individualized support are among the key principles that make IPS successful among youth. 

“Finding and retaining employment or resuming and continuing education are essential aspects of recovery. They give young people a sense of purpose, agency and citizenship. What Works for Work? will help youth achieve these outcomes in socioeconomically, geographically, linguistically and culturally diverse settings across Canada. It could not have come at a time of any greater need than in the throes and aftermath of a pandemic.”  Srividya Iyer

The team will also be developing an online IPS training system that will help build a Canadian cadre of employment specialists trained in IPS now and in the future. Young people will be engaged in developing this training system as they have in the overall project. 

This project is made possible through a partnership between ACCESS Open MindsCentre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth and Family Mental Health, Foundry BC, and Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario, and will mobilize scientists from different sites, including Dr. Eric Latimer and Valérie Noël, who will be leading the economic evaluation for this project. The CIUSSS Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal will also be participating throught two ACCESS Open Minds/Projet Aire Ouverte sites in Dorval Lachine LaSalle and West Island.