In 2009, I was able to participate in a conference that focused on Youth Mental Health and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I met some great youth that were there. We shared a lot of the same feelings: we felt that we were just there as “tokens.” Truth be told. I didn’t really meet a lot of people who were part of the other delegates (ie-frontline workers, nurses, police chiefs, RCMP officers). Well, that is wrong. I did meet them, tried to stay in touch with them… but nothing ever lasted.
That is the problem. People always say we need to do something for the youth, and we need to help youth….but how much do those people really want to hear from the youth? It is possible that some people may get into work like policing, nursing, social services to actually help society, and because of situations they have witnessed or experienced. Unfortunately, I feel that once those people get into the positions where they can actually make a difference, they forget how they got there or forget where they came from. Everyone has a story, yet some people forget about it once they get to the top.
From the conference, I did meet some great youth. These youth came from various backgrounds. Nevertheless, they were still youth and we still had all of our experiences whether indirectly or directly with mental health issues and the justice system.
I remember, as a group, the youth were allowed to speak at the very end of the conference. It was nice enough of them to allow us to speak. However, I was very disappointed in the other delegates who came to this conference, and who were probably paid to be there. I was disappointed because by the end of it, I kept hearing them say, “Oh well I have to leave and get back to my work…” or “I can’t wait to get home and sleep in my own bed…” and other phrases similar in content. The other delegates just HAD to get home and back to their hometown as quick as possible. Barely any of them stayed to hear what the youth had to say at the end of the conference. So I told the delegates who did chose to stay behind the following,
You say you guys want to help the youth but all I keep hearing is how quickly the rest of you have to get home. We, the youth, choose to be here. We are not paid to be here. We are here because we want to see change. When I look out there, all I see are empty tables. I see no change out there. There is no change sitting at those empty tables.
Whether they wanted to agree with me or not, I believed I was right. That is the issue with youth, nobody listens to what we are saying. Everyone says, “Let’s get the youth more involved…” or “Let’s fix what’s going on with the youth…”… but I bet if those people asking those questions, stopped asking questions, and listened for a second… They would probably find more answers then they ever needed.
Instead of talking about us, talk to us.
To see some of the reports, that I just found (nearly two years later) from the conference, see the links below: