The issue of youth mental health has been front and centre over the last couple of years through the pandemic.

The co-chair of a Youth Mental Wellness Summit in Okotoks June 6, Lori Anne Schultz, says these issues have become more prevalent and discussing them openly has become more acceptable.

"The silver lining of COVID, and this has been my personal experience and my experience providing health services to children and families, is that I think it really allowed us to see that everyone struggles with mental health issues and one of the things that we learned at our summit last year is that youth have been particularly impacted during COVID with the isolation and the uncertainty and it really identified a huge need in our community to really be addressing in a more strategic and collaborative way the struggles that our youth are facing."

"We are hearing more and more from our partners and that's really one of the things that we try and do is come together and share what we're hearing and sharing with our partners from our school partners, within AHS and also our other community agencies that our youth in the area of the Foothills and I don't think that it is isolated and it's not existing elsewhere, we know that this exists and think people are more ready to figure out how we can address it in a really proactive way."

She says groups like the Foothills School Division, AHS, the Primary Care Network and others will be gathering for the day-long event locking to identify issues and expand services and opportunities in the Foothills.

One of the outcomes of last year's summit was to create a handbook of local resources which breaks down what services exist in each of the communities.

"We know that in schools there are school liaisons and supports for children, teachers are huge supports for children so the resource we put together really compiles a list of all sorts of different providers in the area like the BGC, the former Boys and Girls Club, the sorts of drop-ins that they have, so we do have a lot of supports and services but much like other rural communities across Alberta we don't have the breadth of social services that exist the more urban centres, so the hope is this summit is going to bringing all the different providers together, and parents and youth, to identify what we still need to go and what sorts of supports are still needed in our community."

Schultz says an objective of the Summit is to see how they can bridge the different silos that groups are in, with all organizations planning separately.

"One of my favourite phrases is that 'no one system created the social problems that exist in our community and no one system can resolve them on their own' and we really do need to come together as a community, as supports and services to discuss how we can, together break down and stretch our mandate to address the issues that are in front of us."

The mayors of Okotoks and Diamond Valley are also expected to be on hand for the event.

The Youth Mental Wellness Summit will be held June 6 at the Foothills Centennial Centre