16-bed young adult mental health unit opens at Royal Jubilee Hospital


Young adults facing mental health challenges now have a dedicated unit at the Royal Jubilee Hospital to receive treatment.

The 16-bed unit will provide mental health care to young adults between the ages of 17 and 26 needing hospital-based care. Patients will be admitted on the referral of a physician, and must be experiencing a first or active episode of psychosis or mood disorder, or having an exacerbation of an existing psychotic or mood disorder.

The space for the unit is being reconfigured from the existing 58-bed general psychiatry unit. Island Health says data from the unit showed that a dedicated space for 17-26 year-olds could be created within that unit without having an impact to treatment for adults.

“This new unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital will help ensure we provide integrated, holistic services that meet the needs of young adults on Vancouver Island,” Jennifer Whiteside, minister of mental health and addictions said in a news release. “This is one more tool we are using to ensure that young people can get the care they need, where and when they need it.”

The team at the unit will include counsellors, peer supports and mental health workers and programs will focus on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, Relaxation Movement and other services.

“In addition to providing evidence-based programming for younger people experiencing mental health challenges, Island Health has transformed the physical space on the unit with the goal to create a more inviting environment for patients and families,” said Leah Hollins, Island Health board chair.

“This includes calming, scenic Vancouver Island murals, updated furniture, a family conference room, exercise equipment and Indigenous art created by Lon French.”

A mother of a former patient of the general psychiatry unit says her then-17-year-old daughter would have benefited from a young adult dedicated space when she was admitted in 2017.

“Kelsey was so vulnerable, and at 17, she was not an adult. She had just been transferred from ICU where she had been on life support after her second suicide attempt. She was terrified upon her arrival,” said Jill Duggan.

“Although she received good care, it wasn’t the best place for Kels. She was discharged with a solid-sounding care plan but that soon fell apart due to capacity issues and lack of communication between services. We were struggling, and Kelsey eventually lost her mental health battle in 2020.”

Duggan has now become a patient caregiver with Island Health to try and help fill some of those gaps that Kelsey fell through.

“I know that Kelsey would be pleased that there is a young adult mental health unit now, a place supported by people who are committed to providing a safe and comfortable environment,” Duggan said. “A spot where young people like her can rest and heal. She would especially be thrilled about the therapy dogs!”

The new unit is something mental advocates have been calling for over the last few years.

Three years ago, Ella Hale told CHEK News her story of seeking treatment for her mental health struggles.

At the time Hale was 18 years old, voicing concerns about the adult system not working for her age group and young adults were falling through the cracks.

READ MORE: ‘Empty promises’: mental health patients say B.C. healthcare system is killing youth

Monday, Hale said this dedicated unit and program will help so many people.

“It’s definitely something I’m excited about,” she said. “I think the needs for young adults are different from any other age demographic.”

Hale explained she has first-hand experience in the new unit, as she was hospitalized for a mental health crisis a few months ago.

She said this was the first time she was admitted to a hospital for her mental health, adding that the programs, groups and structure geared toward her age group helped her.

She said the peer workers and peer-to-peer contact were incredibly valuable.

“In the hospital, there were so many people that I learned a lot of things from and had experience of being in the hospital before. Just made you feel not as alone,” Hale explained.

She said this move by Island Health is a great step forward, but more work needs to be done, including adding more beds to the unit for more people who need help can get it.

With files from CHEK’s Mackenzie Read. 

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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