The new Foundry program offering one-stop help for kids will make a difference, says Miranda Tymoschuk.
She knows, because she’s been there.
The program, confirmed last week by the Ministry of Health, will offer kids one-stop help for everything from school issues, to looking for work, to dealing with family, health or emotional issues. A pilot version of that program has already been running in Maple Ridge for the past two years out of the Youth Wellness Centre, next to the Greg Moore Youth Centre, with the upscaled Foundry program kicking in, in about 18 months.
The Youth Wellness Centre could have helped Tymoschuk five years ago as she was experiencing her own crisis. She’d been suffering from undiagnosed liver problems problems for years, had been in and out of hospital for surgeries on her leg starting at eight years old, and had lost her dad when she was only five years old.
It all came to a head in Christmas 2011, when her gall bladder became infected. She had to go hospital and wait there two weeks for surgery. It turns out that condition had been bothering her for years and had also been affecting her mental health.
The physical pain was excruciating, as was her mental anguish at disrupting the family’s Christmas plans.
“I had this feeling that I was ruining everything for them.”
The mental stress mounted during her stay in hospital, although she’d been there several times before for previous surgeries.
“I just remember feeling really lonely,” she said.
“I think that was trigger for the post traumatic stress disorder.”
Once she was discharged from Royal Columbian Hospital, things just didn’t feel the same. She couldn’t focus in school and didn’t have the energy or patience for family or friends. “I felt just very disconnected from life in general and from my friends and how it used to be. All that was gone and I didn’t know how to get it back. I had no energy to even try to connect with friends anymore.”
Looking back, Tymoschuk says there could have been all sorts of stressors that led to the crisis.
She wanted to ask for help and remembers hesitating outside the school counsellor’s office at Thomas Haney secondary.
“I didn’t want anyone to see me and think I have a problem so I kept pushing it away.”
And what terrified her were her urges to hurt herself. Those came on suddenly, with no warning. She’d never felt that way before.
“I was sitting on my bedroom floor crying and just feeling so numb. I grabbed this pair of scissors and started pushing it into my skin – and I was like – what am I doing?”
The feelings left her shaken and reluctant to seek out help. What are they going to do? Lock her up? she remembered thinking.
The day after the incident, she told her teacher she was having a tough time, though she didn’t mention the urges to hurt herself. The teacher connected her with a school counsellor. Her mom got involved and after some efforts, got her daughter to a pyschologist.
The experience has reshaped how Tymoschuk thinks of mental illness, saying that before, she didn’t take it seriously. “It was a huge shock to me realize … mental illness is very real and it’s extremely difficult to deal with.”
With the Youth Wellness Centre, and the Foundry program, available, kids should find it quicker and easier to get help, without having to leave Maple Ridge.
She’s been involved in the local action team meetings that started the whole process of getting a youth wellness centre running.
“Now, it’s really exciting to see it moving forward, the Foundry being involved.”
It took a bit of patience though to listen to adult professionals express their vision. “As someone who dealt with mental illness and who’s been through the system … it’s so much different than what professionals think.” But it’s inspiring to see so many people concerned about the issue of kids health, she added.
Tymoschuk knows she wasn’t the sole person in high school having a tough time. She urges people to share what they’re going through with someone they’re close to. There is help out there, she said.
“Even if you don’t know where to find it, just having someone listen and there to support you to help you find it, is really important. Because every life is so important.
“To go through life feeling badly, or that you don’t want to live anymore … it’s not good and it happens too often. So people need to get the help they need.”