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The workshop will focus on three areas:

  1. Barriers to access and realities of the child and youth mental health system from the perspective of young people with lived experience (YPWLE). Youth mentors will touch on experiences with depression, anxiety, grief, recovery and turning adversity into advocacy.
  2. Understanding the value of embedding YPWLE in your organization, moving away from tokenistic/performative client engagement to authentic involvement of service users to strengthen programs and have their feedback meaningfully included in decision-making processes.
  3. Practical strategies of how to create impactful roles for YPWLE and setting them up for success.

An overarching theme of the presentation will be centered around power: understanding power dynamics that exist in the child and youth mental health system and how roles for YPWLE can actively challenge traditional power structures, if done intentionally. Drawing upon their lived experiences, the youth mentors will discuss the unique process of coming full circle from navigating and accessing services to working within the system to support other young people experiencing various mental health challenges. This will be rooted in acknowledging that their journeys have never been easy but with support, mentorship, empowerment and agency, young people have the power and potential to be a part of system change.

Primary presenters are two YPWLE who hold part-time staff positions at the Garry Hurvitz Centre for Community Mental Health (GH-CCMH) and will be supported by their manager who oversees the Health Equity and Community Engagement portfolio.


Antonietta Gutierrez (she/her) is a Youth Mentor at the Garry Hurvitz Centre for Community Mental Health at SickKids. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work at Toronto Metropolitan University, Antonietta has volunteered and worked in numerous organizations across Toronto including Lumenus Community Services, Yorktown Family Services, Dr. Jay Children’s Grief Centre and Camp Erin Toronto. As a young woman and racialized youth, Antonietta’s early experiences of grief, trauma and mental health challenges has sparked a passion for advocating for other children and youth and working to embed youth lived experiences across sectors.

Elim Wu (she/they) is a Youth Mentor at the Garry Hurvitz Centre for Community Mental Health at SickKids and is currently supporting the Intensive Services for Youth program. Elim is a high school student who is passionate about pursuing higher education in the field of social work or psychology and utilizing her own lived experience to support other youth in their recovery process. Growing up as a client circulating in the mental health system, Elim strives to be an empowering role model for youth. Elim currently co-facilitates a therapeutic group focused on DBT skills and works hard to make the content accessible and relevant. Elim strongly believes that everyone has the potential to recognize their strengths, talents, and gifts, empowering them to grow into the best version of themselves.

Aparna Kajenthira (she/her) is a racialized settler who arrived on this land as a child with her family. Currently, she is the Senior Manager of Health Equity and Community Engagement at the Garry Hurvitz Centre for Community Mental Health at SickKids. Aparna holds a BA in Business Administration, a Master’s of Social Work, and has spent the past 15 years working with and for youth in community health, mental health and philanthropic settings. Recently, Aparna has been working with her team to redevelop service offerings to better meet youth and families’ needs across the city with intensive mental health needs. Aparna works from an anti-oppressive framework and aims to surface and address issues of equity, marginalization and power in her roles.

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