By: Kris Wallace
Two years ago, Mo was homeless and unemployed. He was 22 years old, thousands of kilometres away from family, and struggling with the inertia of stress, anxiety, and depression. Just when it seemed things couldn’t get worse, his dog died. Alone and despondent, “I was done with living,” Mo says.
The next thing he remembers, he was at St. Paul’s strapped to a bed in the psychiatric ward. “I started crying and thinking what the hell happened? I know I’ve done stupid things, but damn.”
Mo had no idea how he got to St. Paul’s. He was shocked when the nurses told him he had called the ambulance himself. “Somehow, in the midst of dying, I called 911.” Mo looks back on that moment as a turning point. “Even though I felt like nothing lying on that bed, I told myself that I will come out of this. I will better myself. I will reach to the top.”
With that declaration, Mo’s began his journey to recovery and to self-compassion.
While he was still at St. Paul’s, a social worker connected him with the Granville Youth Health Centre, now known as Foundry Vancouver- Granville. Today, Foundry centres across BC, supported by St. Paul’s Foundation, offer a spectrum of health and wellness resources to young people.
Mo remembers the day he first opened the door at Foundry Vancouver-Granville: May 6, 2016. “I spoke with a drop-in counsellor. He spent a couple of hours with me and set me up with a case manager and a psychiatrist.”
Mo saw his psychiatrist at least once a week. “We talked through everything. He really made me challenge myself.” While coming to Foundry for his medical appointments, Mo began to make friends and to participate in the other programs offered at the site including job training and recreational outings. He became a member of the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC).
“When the funding came through for a six-month program support worker, I applied. It was between me and three other people and I got it!”
“I was doing paperwork; helping to organize events; and going to workshops and conferences.” For the first time in a long time, Mo felt genuinely happy. When that position wrapped up, Mo enrolled in Foundry’s Peer Support Program, while also continuing to volunteer with the YAC. He laughs, “It got to the point where I was here every day. We had a joke that my bed was in the back and I was sleeping here!”
Mo remembers that after about a year, his psychiatrist said he was well enough to stop his sessions. “I didn’t believe him! But after a few weeks, I realized he was right. I was in a better place, and I was able to start moving on.”
Most recently, Foundry helped Mo get a practicum at St. Paul’s hospital visiting and supporting patients in the psychiatric ward. “We grab a coffee or have lunch or just chill. I love it. I love it!” he says. “The only down side is that it doesn’t pay the bills.” Mo is worried because his eligibility for subsidized housing is ending. “I’m on a waiting list, but there’s a chance I might be back on the streets for a while. It’s scary.”
Mo believes the supports and skills he’s acquired at Foundry will help him cope with this latest crisis. “I’m trying to be hopeful,” he says. “Because along with getting housing, my goal is to save enough money to go to school for child and youth care or social work.”
“Foundry has helped me learn what my strengths are. I’m resilient. I’m funny as hell. And I believe something good will happen.”
Foundry, a province-wide network of youth centres, are breaking down barriers, removing stigma and providing a safe place to turn for young people with mental health or substance use issues.