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Possibilities, potential and promise: understanding the experiences of at-risk youth and mental health

Faculty Advisor




youth, mental health, risk, narrative inquiry, experience

Abstract (summary)

This article highlights findings from an inquiry into the mental health experiences of Canadian youth who are considered at-risk. The term at-risk suggests that the youth are exposed to situations that place them in danger of being harmed physically, developmentally, and/or psychologically. This research focused on the lives and experiences of at-risk youth, ages 12–22 years who attended an inner-city youth agency in a large urban center in Western Canada. Narrative inquiry methodology was used to engage in relationships with the youth helped identify common themes in the lives of the youth which include: intergenerational stories, intergenerational stories of mental health, living amidst violence, disruption of family stories and composing forward looking stories without privilege. The intent of this work is to make visible the possibilities, potential and promise of each youth and to challenge negative and damaging terms such as at risk which highlight deficits in the lives of the youth. By shifting the focus away from this deficits-based approach towards one of hope and positivity, harmful labeling and stereotypes can be mitigated.

Publication Information

Jackson, M.K. (2021). Possibilities, Potential and Promise: Understanding the Experiences of at Risk Youth and Mental Health. Childhood Vulnerability 4, 37–49.


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