by Dr. Kate Evans, Family Physician, Sidney –
As the holiday season ends, I breathe a sigh of relief. Not just because the chaos and expectation of the season is behind us, but also because it is such a difficult time of year for so many of my patients. For those experiencing loneliness or grief and loss, the holidays can be very painful and isolating. Families being thrown together at this time of year can bring on added stress that may manifest in symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges. As a family physician I see the effect these pressures can have on children and youth in our community. Fortunately, there are local services that are here to help.
During an acute mental health crisis, there are several places to turn. The first is to call 911 or the 24-hour Vancouver Island Crisis Line (1-888-494-3888). The Crisis Line has access to the Integrated Mobile Crisis Response Team (IMCRT) – professionals who can travel to the scene of a crisis and decide on the best course of action. The Victoria General Hospital Emergency Department will see those under 17, while the Royal Jubilee Hospital is the place to go for older youth and young adults with acute mental health problems. NEED2 also operates an online chat line for youth experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide (www.youthspace.ca).
What about in a non-crisis situation? If you have access to a Family Physician, that’s the place to start. Teachers and school counsellors are also there to help. If you have extended health benefits or an employee assistance program, then make a call to get a list of counsellors; otherwise choose your own from the many listed online (www.psychologists.bc.ca is one example).
The Saanich Child and Youth Mental Health Centre is an outstanding resource. Located at #201 – 4478 West Saanich Road, the Centre employs mental health clinicians who will do an intake interview with you and/or your child. They will then let you know what services would best suit your child’s situation. Instead of waiting for a referral, families can present during “walk-in” hours. Phone 250-952-5073 for more information. First Nations families can call 250-952-4073 to access the Aboriginal Child and Youth Mental Health office.
One of the biggest tragedies of the past year has been the number of overdose deaths in our province due to the fentanyl crisis. Sadly, youth on the Saanich Peninsula can be counted among those at risk. Island Health operates Discovery Youth and Family Substance Use Services; be it drugs or alcohol, this is a free program with outreach, counselling, education and support. Call 250-519-5313 for more information.
Youth forming caring relationships with committed adults is a huge asset in developing mental wellness; we’re so fortunate on the Peninsula with the myriad of opportunities that promote this through sports teams, youth groups and recreation centres. For LGBT youth, this sense of connection and acceptance is even more important, as their rate of suicide attempts can be as high as 30 to 40%. Saanich Commonwealth Place offers a drop-in for Queer, Trans and Allied Youth on Friday nights, as well as a support group for parents and families. Call 250-475-7624 for more information.
No child or family should struggle alone with mental health or substance use issues. Please reach out to any of the resources above if you, or someone you love, is affected. In the meantime, here are some excellent online resources with more information: www.keltymentalhealth.ca, www.forcesociety.com, www.anxietybc.com, www.teenmentalhealth.org, www.viha.ca/cyf_mental_health/resources, www.south-island.fetchbc.ca.
Dr. Kate Evans is a mother of three and co-chair of the Saanich Peninsula Local Action Team, part of the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative.