The mother of a 17-year-old Alberta girl who took her own life in 2013 after years of battling depression, said the opening of a new mental health facility in Edmonton dedicated to children, is incredible news for families who feel like they have nowhere to turn.
“I think that’s fantastic,” said Stephanie Taylor, whose daughter Emily battled mental illness the majority of her young life. “For parents whose child is suffering from mental illness and addictions, a lot of time they feel lost, they feel like there’s nowhere for them to go for treatment.”
On Monday morning, the Alberta government held the official grand opening of the new Rutherford Mental Health Clinic in south Edmonton. The $1.6-million clinic offers a range of programs and services for children and youth aged four to 18.
“Improving the mental health and well-being of Alberta’s children and youth is a priority for our government,” said Brandy Payne, associate minister of health.
“Making sure kids and teens can receive counselling and other mental health support services is key in helping them build happy and healthy futures.”
Taylor said these types of services weren’t available for her and her family. After Emily began battling mental illness at age six, Taylor said the family was constantly in and out of emergency rooms.
“Her activities and behaviours became very concerning when she was about 15. She started doing suicide attempts with overdosing on Tylenol. She was into cutting,” Taylor said. “It was just a constant battle.
“We lived that constant nightmare of going into emergency rooms and walking out with her and we were left to have to keep her alive on our own and in the end, we weren’t able to do that.”
Emily died by suicide in November 2013 when she was 17.
Over the weekend, Taylor and her family held Emily’s Memorial Ride for mental health awareness. Now in its second year, the event raises funds and awareness for increased access to mental health care for youth. It also aims to end the stigma around mental health and suicide.
Taylor said any action that results in more access to resources for kids and families living with mental illness is a good thing.
“It’s baby steps… It’s nice to see that Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Government of Alberta is doing something about it as well. They’re doing more than talking. They’re acknowledging that mental health funding is too low and we’re just very happy to hear about that.
“Every new initiative and funding that comes is a great step.”
In 2016-17, 6,657 Edmontonians under the age of 18 sought out mental health services or support. Approximately 2,400 children received services offered by therapists within Edmonton schools.
The Rutherford Mental Health Clinic currently has 10 staff members, including five mental health and substance-use therapists, a family counsellor, a specialized youth substance-use counsellor and a consulting child psychiatrist.
The facility nearly triples the capacity of specialized clinic-based mental health services delivered by AHS in Edmonton. Previously, Northgate Clinic, which accepts 800 new patients per year, was the only children’s mental health clinic operated by AHS in Edmonton.
Where to get help
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, the 24-hour Distress Centre and Alberta Crisis Centres all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.