6th International Association for Youth Mental Health Conference in Copenhagen

We had the great honour of attending the sixth International Association of Youth Mental Health (IAYMH) conference recently, which took place in Copenhagen, Denmark! Scarlett had prepared an abstract about our Service Transition Plan tool to apply to present about it at the conference, and she was humbled and thrilled to have been accepted. Elora then applied for an IAYMH youth bursary to attend the conference, and she was accepted as well! Before we knew it, we were both off to Copenhagen!

For a quick bit of context, the IAYMH was created in 2012 with the purpose of collaborating with young people and others involved in the youth mental health sector to advocate for the mental health needs of young people across the globe. The IAYMH hosts an international conference in a different global city every two years. One unique and critical component of IAYMH conferences and events is that they are planned and delivered in partnership with young people! You can learn more about IAYMH and their mission.

So, back to Copenhagen! After a seven and a half hour red eye flight and landing in a time zone that was six hours ahead, we found ourselves slightly disoriented but eager for the next few days in Denmark’s capital city. With little time to spare, we dropped off our luggage at the hotel and made our way to a headspace site for a tour organized through the conference (incidentally, we found ourselves at the wrong headspace location, however they were generous enough to offer us a wonderful tour anyway). headspace Denmark is an initiative inspired by an Australian concept with the same name. In this Scandinavian country, headspace is a free community-based counselling service for youth aged 12 to 25. We learned a lot of really neat stuff about their service model and their ability to sustain themselves as a largely volunteer-based organization! After this we wandered our way around the city, taking in some classic touristy sight-seeing.

The following morning we had our first day of the conference, which involved full-day workshops. Scarlett attended the workshop titled: “Stopping young people from falling through the cracks. Applying a missing middle lens across all contexts”. The term “missing middle” originates from Australia and is widely used to essentially describe the demographic of people with mental illness whose needs are not being met by the mental health system (often comprised of people experiencing “moderate” mental illness, who are “too sick” for community services but not “sick enough” for specialized or emergency services). Elora attended the “Youth mental health advocacy – for youth, by youth” workshop. When the workshop part of the day ended, we joined an organized meet and greet for the youth attending the conference. From there, we were off to Copenhagen City Hall for the conference welcome reception!

Our third day in Copenhagen was the first “official” conference day, as the previous day of workshops required separate registration and were considered an addition to the main conference, so many conference attendees had not participated. To mark the official first day, the Crown Princess of Denmark made an appearance for the conference opening! We were also welcomed by a former Danish Prime Minister as well as several other political leaders of Denmark. The rest of the conference day involved plenary sessions with panel discussions and several presentations that happened concurrently in smaller rooms in between.

Then came our final conference day, which embodied a similar structure to the day before. This day was also when Scarlett had her presentations about the Service Transition Plan tool that mindyourmind co-created! Her presentations were part of the table-top category, which had three presenters (with a common theme as one another) sitting at one table, presenting one at a time for ten minutes each. Attendees rotated through the different tables of interest after each thirty minute session was up. This made for a much less intimidating presentation process (as opposed to standing and presenting for a room full of people), however, it also reduced the number of attendees that we could reach.

Nonetheless, we received lots of positive feedback from those who did attend! After another jam-packed day of learning and discussion, it was bittersweet to have the conference come to a close. Part of the closing remarks included the announcement that the next IAYMH conference will be taking place in Vancouver, Canada in 2024 (we may or may not be crossing our fingers that we could be lucky enough to find our way to that conference too, which may be easier with it being closer to home)!

All in all, many insights and connections were gained in these short few days, and we were both so grateful for the experience in such a wonderful city! Tremendous thank yous to all involved in making it happen!! 

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