British Columbia

'One-stop shop' for youth mental health opens in Victoria

Centre's clients range from homeless to private-school students, with medical, mental health and addiction services under one roof.

'Shame-free environment' praised in latest in series of centres opened across B.C.

Under one roof: From left to right, medical director Dr. Jennifer Lee, Children's Health Foundation CEO Veronica Carroll, patient Cecily Killam and Victoria Youth Clinic executive director Barb Thompson. (Gregor Craigie/CBC)

By the time of the official announcement for the new Victoria Foundry mental health centre Thursday, it already had 3,000 registered patients. 

The new youth mental health hub, to be operated by the Victoria Youth Clinic, quietly opened its doors at 818 Douglas Street on Oct. 2 for walk-in and referred patients aged from 12 to their mid-20s. The new centre brings several existing services under one roof in a large, bright space.

One of the patients is 24-year old Cecily Killam, who for years encountered barriers and gaps in trying to obtain mental health and addiction services, before she connected with the youth clinic. 

Killam told On the Island's Gregor Craigie she particularly appreciated "the shame-free environment." 

"You can go there, you can talk about pretty much anything  without fear of being judged or shamed," she said.

Other services at the Douglas St. location include the Victoria Youth Clinic, Island Health's Discovery Youth and Family Services and NEED2 suicide prevention, education and support services.

It is staffed by nurses, doctors, outreach workers and mental health workers including counsellors and psychiatrists.

On Thursday, the Victoria hub was announced as the province's sixth centre in the Vancouver-based Foundry network.

The announcement included an ongoing commitment of $500,000 a year from the B.C. government for operating costs plus $400,000 for startup costs from the provincial government and donations.

The new Victoria Foundry centre includes primary health care services as well as mental health and addictions support. (Gregor Craigie/CBC)

The Children's Health Foundation of Vancouver Island kickstarted construction in June with a $3-million investment.

Other Foundry centres are already open in North Vancouver, Kelowna, Prince George, Campbell River and Abbotsford as well as Vancouver.

Barb Thompson, executive director of the centre, said the centralized services reduce stress for the young people and families who need them. 

"We get a lot of referrals from the schools, the hospitals," Thompson said. 

Patients from 'all walks of life' 

"We have a ton of youth that access care here from all walks of life," she said. "Some that are homeless, some that are in private schools, some that are in the general mainstream."

One mother of a teenager with mental health and substance use issues said one of the biggest challenges to getting support for young people is persuading them to accept it, which can be difficult when illness, stigma and trauma interfere with clear thinking. 

"So when that help is provided at a place like this that is central and beautiful and welcoming," the mother said, "I think it makes it easier for young people to want to get that help, as opposed to going to a doctor's office somewhere that they don't know and talking to people that may not understand them."

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Island.