From a study conducted by UNICEF–CNW April 24, 2019–

A sense of belonging is a core human need, yet the vast majority of Canadian children and youth feel isolated and unsupported by family, friends and teachers, according to data collected by UNICEF Canada’s One Youth.

A sense of isolation can lead to mental health issues, teen suicide, trouble with the law, poor school performance and homelessness, warns UNICEF’s One Youth initiative.

Recognizing that young people have important perspectives about the issues affecting them and ideas for solutions, UNICEF Canada’s One Youth is working with Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, and YMCA Canada to launch a series of Change Summits in cities across the country.

“The data is overwhelming — Canada’s young people are telling us they feel emotionally isolated, even in their closest relationships,” says Alli Truesdell, UNICEF Canada’s Youth Participation Lead. “Our Change Summits will empower children and youth by letting their voices be heard. They are the experts on understanding the problems they face and the possible solutions to improve their well-being.”

“We want, and need, to really listen to what young people are saying about their own experiences. We are thrilled to play a role in developing spaces where young people lead important conversations and, together, work to create a future where everyone feels they belong,” says Jennifer Holmes Weier, senior vice president, YMCA Canada.

According to UNICEF Canada’s Canadian Index of Child and Youth Well-Being, only 31 percent of 11- to 15-year-olds feel emotionally supported by their friends, 32 percent by family and 35 percent by teachers. Belonging is strongly related to these relationships, but is also affected by poverty, cultural identity and other factors. Widening income inequality has contributed to more difficult and disconnected relationships.

A weak sense of belonging can harm a young person’s development, for some contributing to mental health issues, teen suicide, poor grades, trouble with the law and homelessness.

To address this declining sense of belonging, UNICEF Canada’s One Youth, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada and YMCA Canada are hosting a series of Change Summits across Canada. These events will bring young people and their supporters together to better understand the challenges and design solutions and policy recommendations from a young person’s perspective.

For more information, please visit the full report and see more information on the summits here.