To kick off Mental Health Awareness Month in May, Young Minds Advocacy is hosting our 3rd Annual Creative Advocacy — a celebration to support local artists, counter stigma, and honor mental health advocates who change lives.

Our next Creative Advocacy awardee is John Lyons, a nationally acclaimed professor, author, and mental health advocate. Read on to find out how he has transformed the field!

John S. Lyons, Ph.D., is a professor and humanist who has transformed the way we assess and care for young people! He serves as Senior Policy Fellow at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, but his work takes him across the globe. Though he has released over 250 peer-reviewed publications and several books, he is best known for developing evidence-based assessment tools, and for his client-centered approach in delivering mental health services and supports.

These tools include the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS), Family Advocacy and Support Tool (FAST), and Adult Needs and Strengths Assessment (ANSA). Young Minds Advocacy has incorporated CANS into our system reform work in Idaho, Washington, and California. This tool supports decision-makers in improving the quality of care for young people across every child-serving system, including child welfare, mental health, juvenile justice, and schools. But its reach is much broader: CANS is employed far and wide. The tool has been adapted for use across the world in every continent except Antarctica.

Dr. Lyons put his roots down in Chicago, where he received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology and Statistics from the University of Illinois, and went on to do postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago. He then served on the faculty at Northwestern University for 24 years,  where he was Professor of Psychiatry & Medicine, and the Founding Director of Northwestern’s Mental Health Services and Policy Program.

In 2008, he became the inaugural Endowed Chair of Child and Youth Mental Health Research at the University of Ottawa. When he’s not traveling to provide support to agencies implementing CANS and other assessment frameworks, he is often working with young people and communities to ensure that CANS and other tools center the populations they seek to serve, and uplifting mental health in his own advocacy. He has also published more than 250 peer reviewed publications and six books, including Redressing the Emperor: Improving Our Children’s Public Mental Health System, and Communimetrics.

Of particular note to children, youth, and families in California is Dr. Lyons’ leadership in encouraging and guiding California’s Department of Social Services and Department of Health Care Services in their recent decisions to adopt the CANS for use with all children and youth who touch these vast systems. Implementing the CANS statewide will improve communications among these sister agencies statewide and locally, increase family and youth engagement, and provide the means to assess and improve the quality of mental health services provided to tens of thousands of youth each year. This remarkable and far-reaching initiative is the cornerstone of real system reform; and, it reflects Dr. Lyon’s clear vision and tireless support of improving outcomes for children and families.

Dr. Lyons has inspired thousands of clinicians, parents and caregivers, advocates, academics, and decision-makers as an advocate and educator. We’re delighted to recognize his accomplishments and thrilled to have him joining us this year at Creative Advocacy. Congratulations, Dr. Lyons!

Who else will we be recognizing for their advocacy efforts? Stay tuned for more updates on our Creative Advocacy 2018 Event Page and buy tickets here!

Join The Party!

To kick off Mental Health Awareness Month in May, Young Minds Advocacy is hosting our 3rd Annual Creative Advocacy — a celebration to support local artists, counter stigma, and honor mental health advocates who change lives!

Join us as we continue to reveal our 2018 Creative Advocacy Awardees — youth and adult leaders who work tirelessly to improve young people’s wellness. We’ll have an art exhibit, live music, raffle, food and drinks, and a photo booth for guests to enjoy.

In past years, Creative Advocacy has brought together several hundred community members and featured hundreds of pieces of youth art. This year will be even more impactful!

Check out the event:

Buy tickets:

We hope to see you there!


Saturday, April 28, 2018 | 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM PDT | Add to Calendar

SOMArts Cultural Center | 934 Brannan Street | San Francisco, CA 94103 | View Map

About the Author:

Smitha Gundavajhala
Smitha Gundavajhala is a Communications Associate at Young Minds Advocacy, and was previously a Law Clerk and Policy Intern with YMA. As a student mental health advocate at UC Berkeley, she worked to integrate remote counseling, confidential peer counseling spaces, and cultural and structural competency in institutional spaces. As a second-generation Indian American, she believes that both mental health and advocacy are simultaneously personal and community-informed, and honors both processes in her work.