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Hanging out with friends, doing yoga with her mother and finding joy in her theatre arts class. At 14, Yvana was what you’d call an average teenager. She even got mostly As on her report card.

Then, out of the blue, depression struck. But it would be a while before Yvana knew what was happening to her.

At the start of 2013, feelings of sadness and hopelessness started to consume her. The then 14 year old also started experiencing debilitating anxiety attacks. Her mental state reached a point where she couldn’t concentrate. She lost motivation to complete even the simplest of tasks, like taking a shower. Extreme fatigue set in and her self-esteem plummeted.

“These feelings and thoughts came on suddenly,” she recalls. “I had a low mood most of the time, suicidal thoughts. I knew this wasn’t good, but I wasn’t quite sure where to go for help.”

To cope, she turned to self-injury. It took a number of weeks, but Yvana eventually received help – and a diagnosis — and got on top of her mental health through counselling and medication.

Now 18 and a first year science student at UBC, Yvana says her experience as a young person navigating the health care system to find help with mental health issues was challenging. It’s why she jumped at the chance to be involved with Foundry North Shore when she first heard about the project earlier this summer. She signed on as a peer support worker and then as a volunteer offering input on the physical appearance and lay-out of the space.

“We were being super conscious about how everything looked and felt to ensure that youth coming inside would feel as comfortable as possible,” she says.

Equally important to Yvana – based on her own experience – is the access to primary care alongside mental health and substance use services.

“The main reason I am so excited the centre has primary care is because some doctors have stigma towards patients who experience things like anxiety and depression, so having primary care in a safe and stigma free space like Foundry will be very important,” says Yvana.

Find out more about Yvana’s experience in a YouTube video she created.

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