Justina Doerksen is a family nurse practitioner at the Foundry Victoria Youth Clinic, where demand is high for mental health and substance abuse services.
“There’s a lot of compounding factors at play right now,” Justina explains. “There’s a pandemic, so there’s a lot of isolation that can happen because of that, it’s the wintertime so it’s cold and it’s dark.”
And it’s the holidays — which can be a tough time for a lot of people.
“There’s a lot of family stresses, feeling of isolation and sadness over the holidays so I think mental health is a growing concern in our community,” says Foundry clinical coordinator Amy Schactman.
Foundry Victoria provides health care and wellness supports, including mental health and addiction services, to youth aged 12 to 24.
“Our model is trying to meet a young person where they’re at so a young person could come in not being sure of what they’re needing to access or what they’re looking for,” Amy explains. “They could talk to a counsellor about what their needs might be.”
“The overdose crisis has led to an increase in young people seeking substance use services.
But tragically, 2021 is the deadliest year on record in B.C. as toxic drugs continue to kill at an alarming rate.
“It’s devastating for young people to lose their lives, to lose friends, for families to lose their loved ones, their children, for staff to lose someone they care about,” an emotional Amy says. “It’s just been absolutely devastating.”
But help is available, and they’re hoping more people will reach out.
“It’s a very stigmatized thing that carries a lot of shame and secretiveness,” Justina says. “And our approach as a society for people with substance use has been really putative and moralistic, when really it’s a mental health diagnosis.”
There’s also still a lot of stigma around mental health but experts say young people, in particular, are more willing to talk about it.
“Mental health is a big issue for young people,” Amy says. “I think it’s something they’re talking about, I think they see their friends seeking support, so it might open them up to seeking more support themselves.”
Editor’s note: If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. You can call the Vancouver Island Crisis Line for help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-888-494-3888.