Mental health is often overlooked and stigmatized, especially in immigrant youth. However, the United Voices Immigrant Youth Wellness Summit, which runs on Saturday, was put in place to raise awareness on the topic and connect immigrant youth with mental health support.
The summit began in 2019 when a young newcomer to Canada died by sucide being the victim to bullying at her school. In search of a solution, a group of now 25 organizations and a youth committee came together to develop the summit to bring awareness to youth mental health.
“We want to give youth multiple opportunities for them to ask questions in a safe space regarding mental health,” said Hanne Brahim, the manager of the Family Resource Center at Immigrant Service Calgary and co-founder of United Voices. “We’re gonna break down lots of the stigma, and the negative words used around mental health that we hear often.”
The summit focuses on immigrant youth aged 15 to 25, but anyone in that age range is welcome to attend to learn more about mental health and share in telling stories. Youth can connect with the speakers at the event, who are immigrant youth with lived mental health experience.
“What we hope is that youth participants can identify themselves with the speakers, and can see a strong person that looks just like them speaking up about mental health,” Brahim said.
This year’s event returns to in person after being online for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Participants will hear from a keynote speaker, a youth panel and have various opportunities to discuss and reflect on the topics being presented.
In addition to being an event for youth, United Voices is overseen by a committee of the next generation led by chair Fiza Rajput and vice chair Thompson Luu. They work on and give a voice to all areas of the event including activities, planning, development and logistics.
“What makes the event different is that we have a youth committee that is actually taking ownership,” said Brahim. “They are taking the initiative, they’re making the work happen, we have different subcommittees that are really empowering other youth leaders to take a stand.”
The United Voices Immigrant Youth Wellness Summit will take place on Oct. 22 at Kerby Centre. Youth can sign up to attend the event here.