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Sunnybrook’s Family Navigation Project and the Power of Youth in Mental Health and Addictions

May 24, 2022

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Sunnybrook’s Family Navigation Project (FNP) is empowering the youth voice as it welcomes its first ever Youth Advisory Council.

“This is an exciting new chapter which will enhance FNP’s support of youth with mental health and addictions concerns,” says Dr. Anthony Levitt, FNP’s medical director. “The youth voice and experience has always been valued at FNP. Now, through our work with clients and our Youth Engagement Partners, we have created a Youth Advisory Council and we believe this will take our collaboration with youth and the voice of lived experience to the next level as we plan for the future.”

FNP is a free phone and email service that helps connect youth and families in Durham, Halton, Peel, Toronto and York regions, with the mental health and addictions services and resources they need.

The inaugural FNP Youth Advisory Council includes eight members between the ages of 16 to 26 years old who were selected from dozens of applicants from across the Greater Toronto Area. The Council members will advise on policies and practice to increase youth engagement at FNP. They will also play a key role in creating a youth-centred navigator position.

“FNP’s Youth Advisory Council is bringing together young people with different lived experiences,” says 25-year-old Murad Wancho, Youth Advisory Council member. “Each person can shed a light or new perspective on mental health. We are from diverse backgrounds and want to improve mental health care for young people.”

"I've seen past situations where a youth was not taken seriously because of their age. Sometimes the caregivers were the ones who’d take control. I think it’s important for whomever is involved with the process to hear what the youth is feeling themselves. The youth voice is important,” says James Fleming, FNP Youth Advisory Council member.

Both Murad and James have had their own experiences dealing with mental health concerns and know while it isn’t always easy to reach out for support, having a resource to turn to can make a big difference.

“I think that FNP is a helpful service for youth,” says James. “It is often difficult to find the right path when someone is looking for mental health support, but the FNP's role in navigation acts almost like a catalyst, propelling youth in the right direction and expediting the process to find the right person to help.”

FNP’s youth engagement work is funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Ontario Brain Institute, and the Slaight Family Foundation.

FNP Staff and Youth Advisory Council are working together to increase youth engagement at FNP. (Back L-R): FNP Staff - Roula Markoulakis, Adrienne Young, Sugy Kodeeswaran. (Front L-R): FNP Youth Advisory Council members - Murad Wancho and James Fleming.FNP Staff and Youth Advisory Council are working together to increase youth engagement at FNP. (Back L-R): FNP Staff - Roula Markoulakis, Adrienne Young, Sugy Kodeeswaran. (Front L-R): FNP Youth Advisory Council members - Murad Wancho and James Fleming.

Learn more about Family Navigation Project (FNP) at Sunnybrook: sunnybrook.ca/familynavigation

FNP is not a crisis response line. If you need help in an emergency, please call 911 or visit your local emergency department.


If you’re feeling like you’re in crisis or need somebody to talk to, please know that help is also available through community resources: