A wide range of mental illnesses ranging from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to bi-polar disorder to drug-induced psychosis plague our youth.
The youth living on Vancouver’s streets are plagued with a wide range of mental illnesses that are often (85% of the time) undiagnosed. These illnesses can include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other personality disorders. The majority of these illnesses are left untreated, leading to devastating impacts. These homeless and at-risk young people frequently turn to substance use as a way to escape and numb their pain.
Covenant House Vancouver has leapt to the forefront of ensuring all homeless and at-risk young people have timely access to quality mental health care in a safe and familiar environment. Our mental health and addictions services are modelled around the psychiatric model of Attachment Theory, which recognizes that loving, trusting relationships are a basic biological human need much like food, clothing and shelter.
When a staff member identifies that a young person is struggling with mental health concerns or addiction, they refer the youth to one of our in-house Mental Health Clinicians. The clinicians build trusting relationships with the youth and provide support and counselling in both group and individual sessions. The youth’s therapy can involve Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) or a combination of both.
If a Mental Health Clinician determines a young person is in need of further mental health support, they can refer them to one of eight psychiatrists we are currently working with. Through a progressive partnership with St. Paul’s Hospital that led to the creation of the Inner City Youth Program, the average wait time to see a psychiatrist through Covenant House is only eight days. In an emergency situation, we can have our youth in to see a psychiatrist almost immediately.
Not only does our Mental Health Program respond quickly when a young person needs professional help, but we are also unique in how we prepare our young people to receive this assistance. When meeting a psychiatrist for the first time, the youth’s Mental Health Clinician will join and sit in on the first couple of meetings. This helps transfer the trust that has been developed with the Covenant House staff member to the psychiatrist so the young person can begin the healing process faster.
Covenant House utilizes a preventative approach to tackling mental illness in the community. We believe that helping a person with their mental illness and past traumas while they are young is the key to preventing life-long homelessness and effectively managing symptoms as an adult.