The Cause

The Cause


Your generosity can change the lives of youth struggling with mental health and substance use issues.

CMHA Kelowna and our 23 local partner organizations envision young people in the Central Okanagan having the resources they need to thrive – whether it’s treatment for depression, anxiety, or problematic substance use; a family doctor they trust; connections to employment, housing, or educational supports; peers who can help destigmatize their experiences; or faster access to more specialized psychiatric care.

To achieve this, we are joining a new provincial movement – the BC Integrated Youth Services Initiative (BC-IYSI). Working with government, community agencies and donors like you, we are transforming our system – and bringing all these services into one, accessible, youth-friendly space. Our centre will be a place where any youth or parent in our community can walk in and find the help they need, when they need it. It will prioritize people before the system, and fill gaps where our young people, aged 12-24, currently fall through the cracks.

As part of the BC-IYSI network, the Kelowna centre will share a common vision with over 70 partnerships across the province; and we will become an international leader in youth and family wellbeing.

We need your support to make this happen.

Together with the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation, CMHA Kelowna will look to the community to raise the remaining funds needed to establish a world class clinic, support annual program initiatives and allow for ongoing innovation in order to respond to the mental health needs of our youth and families into the future.

The need – and opportunity:  Our young people are full of promise and potential, but face challenges to their wellbeing – including higher rates of mental illness and substance use than any other age group. They, and their families, often struggle to find help. Unfortunately, we become aware of this when the media covers a tragic story; yet it impacts all of us, and our families, every day.

  • One in four youth in BC need mental health or substance use services, and of those, as few as 25% receive the care they needed.[1]
  • 75% of mental illnesses and substance use problems begin between the ages of 12-24.[2]
  • Suicide is among the leading causes of death for Canadians aged 15-24. Nearly three times more youth died from suicide than from cancer in 2014, and Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world. Strikingly, among Aboriginal and Inuit communities, suicide rates are five to six times higher than our national average.[3]
  • Youth mental illness is ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada.[4]

What if our young people here in the Central Okanagan felt empowered to face these challenges?

What if they did not have to sit on lengthy waitlists – but instead, had a place they could walk into and find help right away, before their health concerns more severely impact their families, relationships, health, housing, education or employment?

How many of our young people would avoid chronic illness, poverty, addiction or involvement with the justice system – and instead, build healthy, fulfilling lives?

This model worksBC-IYSI is inspired by Australia’s successful national headspace program, which has more than 80 centres. A majority of youth report significant improvements in health and wellbeing over time after accessing care at a headspace centre.[5] The first model centre in Canada – the Granville Youth Health Centre – was established in Vancouver in 2015 by the St. Paul’s Hospital Inner City Youth Program. It sees over 10,000 visits annually; with 90% of youth reporting that the Centre made it easier for them to access care and 80% experienced improvements in school or employment.

Evidence from Australia and the Granville Centre show that this model works – by providing upstream care to youth aged 12 to 24 before their illnesses progress, and their needs become more severe.

Donate – 100% of funds raised through OktoberFeast will go towards building and sustaining an integrated youth clinic, positively impacting the mental health and connectedness of young people in the Central Okanagan.

Click Here to Donate

The more health and wellness opportunities we can provide, the more social connections, mental and physical benefits will be experienced by youth at risk.


[1] BC Government data.

[2] Statistics Canada’s (2013). Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health.

[3] Canadian Mental Health Association.

[4] Canadian Mental Health Association.

[5] headspace annual report, 2014-2015.