Olivia Heffernan is a passionate advocate for youth mental health. She has been working and volunteering in the children’s mental health field since 2010 as a youth advocate, youth engagement facilitator, child and youth worker, and now as a registered social worker. Olivia has had the opportunity to experience the children’s mental health sector from many different perspectives – as a young person using services, as a family member receiving support, and as a clinician providing support. These variety of perspectives have validated her strong belief in the FamilySmart model of practice and its power to change outcomes and the system, alongside youth and their families.
Olivia’s personal experiences have led her to recognize the critical role young people and families must play in the creation of a mental health system that works well for everyone. Her youth engagement and mentorship work with The New Mentality underscores her commitment to getting youth involved in system change in ways that are meaningful, creative, and with respect to personal safety. As a youth engagement facilitator and advocate, Olivia vocalized her own lived experience with mental health and substance abuse issues and the experiences of other youth to inform research and system change. Olivia’s role took her across Canada to present and provide training to service providers regarding the importance of youth engagement and how to do it respectfully and effectively. Most recently, Olivia achieved her Master of Social Work degree and is working as a Child and Family Clinician. Her work with the Institute of Families has informed her style as a clinician, emphasizing the importance and value of coming alongside families during what can be some of the most stressful times in their lives. Olivia continues to amplify the voices of children, youth, and their families of choice with the goal of contributing to a system that respects the lived experiences of the people using it.