Work set to begin on one-stop youth mental-health centre

Grade 12 student Zoë Newson knows first-hand how challenging it can be to get treatment for mental-health problems, so she is a big fan of the idea of bringing key parts of the region’s youth mental-health care under one roof.

“It will take a lot of the ‘Where do I go? What do I do?’ out of mental health.”

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She said it took time for her to get the help she needed when she began having problems that eventually resulted in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety. She said when her problems started, medical professionals didn’t take her condition seriously — but less than a month later, she ended up in a crisis situation and going to hospital.

Zoe was in attendance Friday when the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island announced that it will conduct a $3-million fundraising campaign to create a hub for organizations offering mental-health treatment. The Victoria Youth Clinic — whose clientele can include at-risk or street-involved patients — NEED2 Suicide Prevention Education & Support, the Island Health Early Psychosis Intervention Team and other groups will call the new facility home.

The site will be in revamped space at 818 Douglas St., near Humboldt Street. There is hope for a September or October opening.

Sandra Hudson, vice-chair of the foundation board, said the organization has evolved over its 90-year history, which began with in-patient support for children with polio in 1927.

“Today, mental health is the No. 1 issue facing our youth,” she said. “We’ve heard that one in five Island kids need help with mental health or a substance-use issue, yet as few as 20 per cent of these youth have access to the mental-health services they need right now.”

Of the more than 3,750 patients seen at the Victoria Youth Clinic last year, 55 per cent said mental-health or substance concerns were their main reasons for seeking help.

Hudson said the foundation was inspired to create the new centre after talking with youth and families, who have said that early intervention with mental-health concerns and reducing the stigma they can lead to are vital.

The new facility will be a “one-stop shop” that brings experts and services under one roof, and makes access to care easier, which is good for kids in crisis and their parents, she said.

Hudson urged the public to support the project. “Together we can stand with our children, together we can rally behind them and together we can show them they’re not alone, especially in their darkest days.”

The money raised will support a multi-year commitment to the initiative, said foundation CEO Veronica Carroll.

The foundation website is childrenshealthvi.org.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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