Making a Difference: Sheryl Boswell

The reality of youth mental health in Canada is sobering. An estimated 1.2 million children and youth in Canada are affected by mental illness, yet less than 20% receive appropriate treatment (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2023). Suicide is the leading health-related cause of death for people aged 15-24 (Statistics Canada, 2019), and the situation for Indigenous youth is even more critical, with suicide rates 5 to 6 times higher than their non-Aboriginal counterparts (Royal Commission of Aboriginal People, 1995).In the face of these challenges, YMHC is constantly striving to make a difference. 

In the last three years, Sheryl and YMHC have donated over $200,000 worth of mental wellness journal workbooks and provided subsidized workshops and training courses for parents, caregivers, and Indigenous education and mental health professionals. We have a dedicated donation campaign, Make Hope Happen. One hundred percent of donations go directly to supporting young people across Canada.

In 2023, YMHC donated our resources to almost 500 libraries, 72 school boards in Ontario, 100 Indigenous organizations in Ontario, and 100 universities in Canada. 

Our initiatives include free peer support services, educational resources including our workbooks, guidebooks, multilingual mental health posters, printables, and educational and training opportunities with workshops on a wide variety of topics and courses on supporting students with chronic school absenteeism and youth mental health issues. 

We also conduct research, such as our survey study on school phobia and exclusion and youth mental health and wellness needs, to better understand and address the complexities of youth mental health.

Contributions to Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

Since 2013, here are Sheryl’s contributions that have made her work internationally recognized and respected in youth mental health and suicide prevention:

Extensive Educational Outreach

Provided hundreds of in-person and virtual presentations, workshops, and training courses to thousands of students, families, education and mental health professionals, government workers, community workers, and community members across Canada and internationally.

Development of Mental Wellness Publications

Produced five mental wellness workbooks, five booklets, and a guidebook on supporting students with mental health challenges and disabilities who experience chronic school absenteeism.

Creation of Multilingual Mental Health Awareness Tools

Produced multilingual mental health posters.

Advocacy and Support for Students and Families

Provided advocacy and support services to hundreds of students and their families across Canada.

National Youth Mental Health Film Contest

Coordinated a national youth mental health film contest called Directing Change Canada.

Documentary Film Production on Youth Mental Health

Coordinated a national youth mental health documentary film, “Youth Voices, Youth Hope”, with 150 students from three provinces and many prominent Canadians including Clara Hughes, Seamus O’Regan, Mary Walsh, and Amelia Curran.

Collaboration and Volunteer Engagement

Worked with hundreds of volunteers and postsecondary placement students across Canada and internationally.

Research and Survey Initiatives on Youth Mental Health

Conducted two surveys on youth mental health and wellness needs and school phobia, avoidance, and chronic absenteeism with recommendations for action.

Presentations at Conferences

Presented at local, provincial, national, and international conferences.

Community Support Campaigns

Created a Make Hope Happen and Heart-to-Heart campaign to generate ways of supporting individuals and communities.

Engagement with Media

Interviewed by media sources throughout North America including local and national CBC television and radio, Globe and Mail, CTV, the Toronto Star, and The Agenda with Steve Paikin.