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New Victoria hub to provide more mental health supports for area youth

Integrated health facility to open downtown this fall.

Seven years ago, Barbara Thompson began noticing a troubling trend affecting the city’s youth.

More individuals were coming into the Victoria Youth Clinic, but rather than accessing primary services such as overall well-being support and sexual education, they were seeking help for anxiety, depression, stress and substance use, caused by struggles with school, family dynamics, bullying and peer pressure.

Last year alone, the clinic saw more than 3,000 patients, more than half of whom accessed care for mental health or substance abuse support.

“It’s astounding. I think it’s really troubling for us … It’s becoming a more common theme that we’ve been able to see throughout the health-care system,” said Thompson, the clinic’s executive director. “There’s a lot of instant pressure to fit in and try and be a youth.”

The numbers spurred the clinic, in partnership with NEED2 Suicide Prevention and Education Society, Island Health’s Early Psychosis Intervention team and the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, to develop and launch a new mental health care hub for youth and their families in downtown Victoria.

The hub, to be located at 818 Douglas St., will act as a one-stop shop, bringing together services from counselling and psychological assessment to housing, employment and transgender supports aimed at meeting youth where they’re at.

Currently, the Children’s Health Foundation is in the process of raising $3 million to support both the capital development of the roughly 5,400-square-foot space, and improvements to health service navigation resources for local families.

Sandra Hudson, vice-chair of the foundation’s board, said youth around Greater Victoria have consistently raised concerns about access to mental health services, which is why the foundation jumped on board to help.

“One in five youth need help with a mental health or substance use issue, yet as few as 20 per cent of these kids have access to mental health services right now,” Hudson said. “Together we can stand with our children. We can show them they’re not alone, especially on their darkest days.”

Renovations on the hub are expected to be completed in the next few months, transforming the space into an energetic, youth-friendly space. The facility is expected to open in September.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com

Sandra Hudson (left to right), vice-chair of the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, Susan Girling with Island Health; Veronica Carroll, CEO of the foundation; Barbara Thompson, executive director of the Victoria Youth Clinic, and Justin Thomson, executive director of NEED2 Suicide Prevention Education and Support, gather at the launch of a new integrated youth mental health hub at 818 Douglas St. Kendra Wong/Victoria News

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