Alberta’s first public mental health park opens in Calgary

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Alberta’s first public mental health park opens in Calgary
A new park in Calgary will focus on youth mental health in Calgary. Those who work with teens and youth say they have seen an increasing number of teens accessing mental health resources, and the demand is growing. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, more help is on the way for teens in Alberta – Sep 23, 2023

Alberta’s first park dedicated to enhancing mental health officially opened in Calgary on Saturday.

The climbing boulder has become a popular spot to scramble up the Brawn Family Foundation Rotary Park in northwest Calgary.  Like everything else at the park,  it was designed with teens in mind.

“We always hear that teens love to climb really high and then they like to sit up there and one of the reasons is that adults won’t follow. So we see them climbing up on our bouldering wall sitting up there and having that space on their own, but still being part of a really supportive environment,” said Sheila Taylor, Parks Foundation Calgary’s chief executive officer.

Years of research went into the design and construction of the green space, she said. Exposure to nature has been linked to lower stress, better mood, and faster psychological stress recovery.

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The park was made possible through a partnership between the Parks Foundation and the City of Calgary, along with various donors including the Brawn Family Foundation and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.

“For so long we haven’t thought about the role that outdoor spaces play in medical recovery. I’m excited that we could be proving that to be the case and as we’re looking at medical facilities we are really thinking about the role that nature and the outdoors can play,” Taylor said.

“Early on in the project, Alberta Health Services talked to us about the stress the kids are under and they often want to run outside and flee. They asked us to create areas of sanctuary where it felt like you can run off but still go to your own space and be safe.”

The Brawn Family Foundation Rotary Park is located a few steps away from  The Summit. It offers mental health services to people up to and including 18 years of age, with the goal of reducing mental illness in youth through early intervention.

The Summit offers free, walk-in therapy sessions for children, youth and families from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

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Since it opened in March, there have been 1,500 walk-ins, according to Alberta Health Services. An average of 30 people per day are now being seen at the centre, a reflection of the demand for mental health help in Calgary.

“For families, knowing that they have somewhere to go in the moment when they need that service. That they can access that service and that they’re not having to wait a day or two or maybe a week to get service,” said Avril Deegan, with Alberta Health Services.

“We are seeing lots of anxiety and depression and families, not knowing what to do.”

The Ptarmigan Day Hospital at the centre is the city’s first mental-health day hospital for children, helping kids transition out of inpatient care into daily intensive therapy.

The Summit is expected to support about 8,000 patients and families every year.

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