Foundry news conference

Premier Christy Clark, centre, was on hand Monday for an announcement about a one-stop shop called Foundry for youth with mental-health issues that will open in Kelowna in May. She was joined by Tamara Barkley, 23, left, and Finnegan Pihl, 14, who both suffer from mental illness.

The morning Finnegan Pihl told his mom he wanted to die, the family knew it had to do something drastic right away.

“But nothing with mental health happens right away,” said Jody Pihl, Finnegan’s mom.

“He was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder at age nine and he’s now 14.

“We started with our GP (general practitioner doctor), but it was still a two-year process of appointments, referrals and waiting lists.”

That’s why the Pihls are extremely happy to see Foundry, a one-stop shop for youth struggling with mental illness, coming to Kelowna.

“The concept of being able to drop in to a clinic and get immediate help from 25 service agencies is a no-brainer,” said Jody Pihl. “It’s a much more efficient process for kids and the health-care system.”

Premier Christy Clark was in Kelowna Monday for the Foundry announcement at 1815 Kirschner Rd., the former Interior Health financial offices, where the youth mental-health clinic will be established by May.

Rather than simply hold a news conference with politicians and health-care speakers, Foundry felt it was important to have two young people with mental illness present to put a face on the disease.

Finnegan was there with his family — mom Jody, dad Sean, both of whom are lawyers, and his fraternal twin brother Sasha, who doesn’t have depression.

The other young person in attendance was Tamara Barkley, 23, who is a schizophrenic savant.

“I’ve already been helped with Connected by 25 (the pilot project in Kelowna for Foundry),” said Barkley.

“The therapy and psychological support is tremendous, and it’s helped me control my emotional outbursts and get my chemical imbalance somewhat in check. But, I had to stop taking my medication because it was giving me grand mal seizures.”

The search is on for new medication that doesn’t spark seizures.

Barkley was also helped by Connected by 25 to find a home.

She’s looking at going back to school to study marine sciences.

Finnegan is now on medication, feels much better, has returned to school, where he gets straight As, and has gone on the public speaking circuit to urge kids to seek help if they feel depressed.

He opened for Canadian Olympic gold medallist and speedskater Clara Hughes, who also suffers from depression, at Women in Wellness events in Kelowna and Vernon; addressed youth at Bollywood Bang in Vernon; and the Ontario Provincial Police are using a video of his story to urge youth to get help and parents to seek help for their kids.

“We’re proud Finn has been open about this and sought help,” said his dad.

“It’s been tough for the family, but the reality is we have to talk about and confront mental-health issues.”

The Foundry clinic in Kelowna will be the first of six to open in the province, along with clinics in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Abbotsford, Campbell River and Prince George.

Harking back to its Connected by 25 pilot, Foundry will feature access to 25 individuals and agencies under one roof for youth to get mental-health help. The 25 include triage nurses, psychiatrists, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Interior Health, B.C. Housing, WorkBC, Kelowna Community Resources and the Central Okanagan Community Food Bank.

The $5-million cost of Foundry Kelowna will be covered by $3 million in provincial money, funds from four foundations and a local $2-million fundraiser.

“Early intervention, diagnosis and treatment is essential,” said Clark.

“Youth can just walk into Foundry or be referred by their family, doctor or school. There will be no stigma about mental health at Foundry but, as its name indicates, new beginnings and new well-being.”