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COVID-19 pandemic has magnified Interior's mental health crisis

Mental health care is for all

Contributed KGH Foundation

The birth of a child.

The passing of a loved one.

A life-altering injury or trauma.

A pandemic.

Sometimes, seemingly for no reason at all.

Mental health care is health care that affects us all. Fifty percent of us will have had or will develop a mental health issue by the time we reach 40 years of age. It can affect you regardless of your age, gender or socio-economic status. It has been a critical concern in our region for some time.

The pandemic has magnified the crisis.

“It felt like it came out of nowhere. She just became intensely anxious,” Laura says of her teenage daughter. “She didn’t want to go to school or play hockey. All the things that used to make her happy just didn’t anymore. As parents, we were so overwhelmed. We still are.”

Laura’s daughter began experiencing anxiety and depression during the pandemic. “There has been so much going on in the world, and it’s been a lot for even us as adults to cope with,” Laura says. “We have been just hoping things would get better on their own.”

With the right support, things can get better for Laura’s daughter. But people aren’t the only ones struggling.

Our mental health care system is also in crisis.

From January 2019 to December 2021, there was a 41% increase in moderate to severe mental health referrals in the Interior Health region. Demand for mental health support is increasing faster than ever. Most resources and treatments are available only once you are in dire need. Many families, like Laura’s, are just coping and hoping things get better.

It’s time to take action. You can help.

The KGH Foundation has united with local mental health care providers—Interior Health, CMHA Kelowna, Child Advocacy Centre of Kelowna and Kelowna Community Resources—to raise $1.7 million to address the mental health-care crisis right here at home.

Immediate funding is desperately needed to provide relief to existing community-based mental health programs critically stressed under the weight of the increased demand.

But it’s not enough.

It’s time to re-imagine the system of mental health care in our community.

Alli’s son has suffered from mental health challenges for half his life. In addition to the anguish of watching her son struggle for years, Alli has tried in earnest to get him help.

“He was my miracle baby, the sun, the moon and the stars to me,” Alli says. “I would do anything for him. But it was frustrating trying to get him the help he needed. We were exhausted and running out of hope.”

He was 23 when, in 2019, they were finally referred to Foundry Kelowna.

In 2017, the KGH Foundation partnered with CMHA Kelowna to open Foundry Kelowna, an integrated mental health care centre for youth aged 12 to 24. Since its opening, Foundry has been a game-changer for thousands of young people and hundreds of families navigating mental health issues every year. Foundry Kelowna would not have been possible without the imaginations of those who were no longer satisfied with the status quo when it came to supporting youth mental health. Through collaboration, innovation and, ultimately, donor support, a new model emerged. Foundry Kelowna not only provides critical care for youth and families, but its very existence is also a testament to what is possible when system change is prioritized and resourced.

There is hope for families like Laura’s and Alli’s and so many others who are struggling when we work together.

With your support, bold action will be taken to address the mental health-care crisis in our community. Mental health care is for all of us. Every dollar in support of the ‘We see you’ campaign supports your family, neighbours, colleagues, friends … and you.

Mental health care must be a priority in our health system. It’s time to act now. It’s time to act together.

If you make a gift in support of ‘We see you’ by April 21, the KGH Day of Giving, your gift will have double the impact thanks to the generosity of local families who are committed to advancing mental health care. For every $1 donated they will match it—dollar for dollar—to improve mental health care for you and your loved ones.

For more information about Day of Giving in support of the ‘We see you’ campaign for mental health care, visit the KGH Foundation website or call 250-862-4438.

This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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