The fundraising campaign behind the establishment of a new mental health services centre for youth in Kelowna is nearing its $2 million objective.
Leading the campaign is the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation in support of Foundry Kelowna, a hub that will offer access to 25 different agency services for Kelowna and area youth between the ages of 12 and 24.
With the unveiling this week of a $50,000 grant from Valley First Credit Union’s Penticton branch, the campaign is close to its goal now, says Doug Rankmore, executive director of the foundation.
“We’re doing well and quite overwhelmed by the supportive response,” said Rankmore, saying a formal revealing of the campaign’s success will likely come this fall for a campaign that was kick-started in January.
He said the community has embraced the realization that mental health care is a need for our youth that needs to be addressed.
“There are many organizations along with the hospital and Interior Health doing a great job to deal with this problem within their own groups, but the coordination piece has been missing,” he said.
Rankmore said this campaign has been a departure for the KGH Foundation, which traditionally has raised money for services and equipment at Kelowna General Hospital.
“This was a new endeavour for us to do this and work in partnership with an outside agency, in this case the Canadian Mental Health Association which has been fantastic to work with,” he said.
Rankmore added mental health is an issue that also touches people on many levels, either personally or in the workplace. “Everybody knows somebody,” he said.
Mike Gawliuk, director of service delivery and program innovation for the Kelowna branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, says the Foundry is scheduled to begin offering some initial services in mid-August and have a formal full-scale opening in September.
“We want to make sure our feet are under us and we have the right people in the right spots before we open up to our full broad range of intended services,” Gawliuk said.
Kelowna was one of five sites chosen to receive funding to open the mental health services access hubs, to occupy the Dickson Avenue location that previously was home to Interior Health administration.
Since then, the province has committed funding for a further five sites to be opened over the next 12 to 18 months across the province.
“That is encouraging,” Gawliuk said of the provincial government’s recognition to address mental health care needs.
Gawliuk believes mental health issues didn’t just become more prevalent in recent years, but rather were just not talked about openly so public awareness was limited.
He said one in five young people suffer from mental health symptoms.
“Unless you live in a vacuum, we all know someone who is suffering through this,” Gawliuk said.
“The statistics have always reflected that prevalence. It’s always been there but now it has come out of the shadows. People are openly talking about it and asking for help,” Gawliuk said.
Two recent examples of that are Prince Harry, who did a video with his brother Prince William and his wife Kate, talking about the emotional distress he felt from losing his mother, Princess Diana, and having nowhere to turn for help.
The other is Toronto Blue Jays reliever Roberto Osuna, who opened up about his feelings of anxiety and “not feeling right” off the ball field, which in turn former NHLer Shayne Corson publicly supported, acknowledging that anxiety took over his life for much of his 19-year career.
“I was afraid to tell anyone. I was afraid to show weakness,” Corson said in a National Post story published this week.
Gawliuk said the stigma attached to mental illness needs to be torn down, and the only way to do that is to open conversation, to say it’s okay to be struggling and be in need of help, and to in turn be able to get that help.
“These emotional issues can and do affect all of us. It doesn’t matter what your last name is, what the size of your bank account is, the reality is these conditions can be experienced by anyone during their lifetime,” he said.
Gawliuk says the Foundry facility interior design upgrade has been completed by Kelowna’s Evolve Design, offering a sense of flexibility combined with design elements based on consultative meetings with staff, parents and youth in the system.
“I don’t say this lightly—this project has changed my business direction, and my perspective on life,” said Jules Galloway, owner of Evolve Design.
“These people change lives and to give then - and the youth - an incredible space to do that from has been a labour of love.”